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Differences Between State and Federal Crimes

Judge holding a gavel

Facing charges for a criminal offense is intimidating — you may not understand why you are accused of the actions or the potential consequences you may endure. Working with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney is beneficial during these circumstances. Additionally, it’s useful to learn where your crime will be judged — whether that be in state or federal court — as there are key differences between the two.

State Crimes

Someone will typically be tried in state court if they are accused of committing a crime in Ohio without traveling to another state. Common examples of crimes that are typically charged under state law include:

The essential factors for a crime to be charged in the state are the extent of the accusation (for example, having a small quantity of an illegal drug versus a significant amount that instead, could be considered trafficking) and whether the crime happened in multiple jurisdictions or one area.

Punishments for State Crimes

Those who are punished for a state crime will either be sentenced to a local jail or prison. A local judge will be the one to determine the exact punishment by interpreting Ohio’s statutes regarding criminal offenses.

Federal Crimes

Those charged with a federal offense are typically regarded as being accused of committing a more serious crime. Some examples of federal crimes include:

  • Conspiracy;
  • Crime on federal property;
  • Drug trafficking;
  • Embezzlement;
  • Fraud;
  • Human trafficking;
  • Possession of a weapon by a felon; and,
  • Weapons trafficking.

Compared to a state crime, not all of the above crimes would need to occur across state borders for them to be tried in federal court. However, other serious offenses that would otherwise be considered a state crime but do occur in multiple states will most likely be tried in federal court.

Punishments for Federal Crimes

Those convicted of a federal crime will face a punishment that usually involves a harsher fine compared to state crime punishments and incarceration. While incarceration is a common punishment for state crimes, incarceration for a federal crime equates to time in federal prison. There are fewer federal prisons in the United States compared to state prisons, which means someone who commits a crime in Ohio may not necessarily get sent to one of the federal prisons in the Buckeye state. Additionally, a federal judge is the one who makes the ultimate decision on the punishment of a federal crime compared to a state judge for a state crime.

Additional Differences

There are other key differences between state and federal crimes including:

  • Bail: with a state crime, someone may have the option of bail (or a promissory amount of money given to the court to stay out of jail during the criminal proceedings). Most federal cases have stricter conditions should someone be eligible for bail or a release including electronic monitoring or frequent check-ins with law enforcement.
  • Jury: when on trial, someone charged with a state crime will face a jury of their peers who live in the same county or area where the alleged incident occurred. Federal crimes, on the other hand, are tried in front of a jury composed of a federal district. This means that jurors are chosen from a larger geographic area and can be more diverse.
  • Defense Attorney: not every criminal defense attorney has the credentials to try a case in federal court. Specific criteria and pre-requisites must be obtained prior to an attorney defending a client in federal court.

Contact Cincinnati and Dayton’s Experienced Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

When you need an experienced criminal defense team representing your case, look no further than L. Patrick Mulligan & Associates, LLC. Our dedicated attorneys have successfully tried cases in federal court and are ready to fight for you. Read how we have helped past clients and reach out so we can get started on your case. (937) 685-7006