What makes one charge a federal crime and another a state crime?

Readers of this Louisiana criminal law blog may have reviewed prior posts that have discussed how an individual may be charged with both state and federal crimes. This is because both the state and the federal government have codified their own sets of criminal laws. While some of the laws overlap in terms of prohibited actions and behaviors, other factors may play into whether the crime is a breach of state or federal law.

Where an alleged crime is committed, who or what the alleged victim is, and many other factors can play into whether a charge is based on state or federal law. Some crimes, however, only exist in the federal realm. When a federal crime alleged to have occurred then a person may face prosecution in the federal criminal court system.

Charges in federal court are prosecuted by attorneys who represent the United States. However, in state criminal courts there are state attorneys who bring the relevant charges. Federal courts generally convene grand juries prior to beginning prosecution. A grand jury looks over a prosecutor’s preliminary case against a suspected criminal and decides if there is enough evidence for the prosecutor to proceed to trial.

If the grand jury permits the prosecutor to move forward, then the suspected individual begins to prepare himself for trial. At trial for a criminal matter in federal court a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual charged with the crime actually committed the claimed offense. If a prosecutor fails to prove beyond such reasonable doubt that the charged individual is guilty then that person may be released from his federal charges.

This information contained in this post provides an overview of federal crimes and their handling in federal court. Individuals should not rely on it as specific legal advice. Rather, attorneys who work in the criminal defense field may be able to provide their clients with guidance on the specific federal criminal matters present in their lives.

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