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State vs. Federal Offenses


In the U.S., both federal and state governments are given the authority to enact laws which regulate and punish criminal activity. Typically, state laws deal with crimes that take place within a state’s borders and can include offenses such as robbery and assault. On the other hand, crimes which violate the federal legal code usually involve a federal party directly or are not limited to one locality, such as the manufacture of counterfeit money. Additionally, different courts have been established to hear both state and federal offenses. How a crime is classified (and what court will hear the offense) can depend on a multitude of factors.

A crime may be a federal offense in situations including:

  • The criminal offense crosses state lines or the misconduct occurs in multiple states
  • The United States or a federal employee is a direct party to the offense
  • International considerations such as an immigration violation
  • A crime occurs on federally owned or regulated land such as a state park

State and federal statutes can often mirror one another. In some cases, the laws overlap and an offense can be punished as either (or both) a state or federal crime. For example, both Wisconsin and federal laws have regulations governing controlled substances and drug crimes. However, the exact conduct covered as well as the potential punishments can differ greatly. While a crime can fall under both federal and state jurisdiction, it is typically only pursued through a single court.

Facing Criminal Charges? Call (414) 882-8382

In practice, criminal offenses are treated on a case-by-case basis and if you have been charged with a crime, only an attorney may be able to properly advise you on what to expect moving forward. When selecting legal representation it is critical that you secure the services of an attorney with experience handling the type of charges you face.

At the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella, we have a proven record of success defending the accused in both state and federal cases. Our Milwaukee criminal defense attorney has more than 20 years of experience including time spent as a federal prosecutor with the city and understands how to maximize the strength of your defense. If you would like answers to your questions, do not hesitate to contact our firm today.

Request a FREE case evaluation and speak to an attorney about your possible defenses.

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