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Federal Cases vs. State Criminal Charges: What You Need to Know


You may not initially think that your state government has much in common with the federal government, but there are some notable similarities. Both governments have passed criminal statutes that penalize certain behavior. And in cases for both governments, attorneys are responsible for advocating for clients under those laws.

However, there are key differences in responding to a state criminal allegation and one leveled against you by the federal government. Here is what you need to know about federal cases vs. state criminal charges in North Carolina.

Crucial Differences Between State and Federal Charges

While there are many differences of varying significance between a charge brought against you for violating North Carolina laws and one alleging federal law violations, some of the most notable differences include the following:

Federal Charges Tend to Carry More Severe Penalties

First, if you are charged with a federal crime, it is likely because the federal government believes you committed a crime that spanned or impacted people in more than one state. You could also face a federal criminal charge for allegedly defrauding the federal government or attempting to escape a statutory obligation, like paying taxes.

Whatever the precise reason in your case, a federal crime typically carries minimum penalties that are more severe than a state crime. You must be prepared to defend yourself against federal criminal charges aggressively.

Federal Prosecutors Have Greater Resources and Time

Some state prosecutors’ offices are understaffed and overworked. As a result, these offices may not prosecute all criminal cases presented to them or prosecute all case types with equal vigor. 

As a result, a state criminal defendant may be able to secure a favorable plea deal by leveraging the prosecutor’s office’s lack of time and human power to take their case to trial.

These same limitations do not apply to the federal government. The U.S. Attorneys who prosecute most federal crimes can be selective about the cases they file and prosecute. Moreover, they have the investigative and financial resources of the federal government at their disposal to build a more robust case than most state-level prosecutor’s offices.

With a Federal Crime, Confinement Can Mean Prison

A state-level misdemeanor crime can be punished with a term of confinement in your local county jail. While unpleasant and inconvenient, you are often close to your home and job when you are released. 

With a federal crime, a conviction can lead to incarceration at one of several federal prisons. These can be located far from your home and family, making your term of confinement even more physically and emotionally difficult.

Finding the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Charges

Whether you are facing federal or state criminal charges, you want to ensure your criminal defense lawyer in North Carolina is experienced in handling your type of charges. A criminal defense attorney who is prepared to respond aggressively can reduce the likelihood that you will be convicted or be dealt serious penalties.

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