What Is the Difference Between a Federal & State Crime?
Federal crimes are prosecuted in federal courts, they're called the United States district courts. There are 97 federal districts throughout the United States. Federal crimes are serious crimes, they're almost always felonies, and they almost always carry with it a serious potential of doing serious time in custody if you're convicted, either after a trial, and sometimes even with a plea or a plea bargain, or a plea negotiation, or a plea agreement as it's called. State cases are prosecuted in state court, state court is often much, much fairer than in federal court. Federal court is very formal, federal court is governed by sentencing guidelines. Even though judges are not bound by them, they must be considered. Federal criminal cases come about after a grand jury investigation, which really means the prosecutors want to charge you. If your lawyer is working with federal prosecutors, very often, a plea agreement can be worked out where you plead to a document called an information, and there's no grand jury. In state cases, prosecutors can charge you simply by swearing out charges. That charging document is also called an information. So there's a big difference, and if you're charged in federal court, you've got to have an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer. That is absolutely essential. If you're charged in state court, you need a lawyer who understands and who's practiced actively in state criminal court.