What is the Difference Between a Federal Crime and a State Crime?

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Did you know that 6 million crimes happen every year in the U.S alone? This number is then separated by the types of crimes that get committed.

For example, a state crime is different from a federal crime which means they’re tried differently. Unfortunately, many citizens are not aware of the differences between the two.

Overall it’s important to know what a state crime is versus a federal crime and how they’re prosecuted. So if you want to know more about different crimes, laws, and courts, then keep reading this article.


What Is a Federal Crime

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So what is a federal crime versus a state crime? For starters, all federal crimes are by the United States Code via the U.S Congress. Moreover, title 18 of the United States Code deals with federal criminal laws.

And state crimes are by the state’s criminal codes. For example, in Georgia, the state code that composes an offense is the Georgia Penal Code.

Federal and state crimes are also investigated and prosecuted by different agencies.

For example, the President of the United States is fully authorized to implement federal laws. However, the President doesn’t directly implement the laws himself.

Instead, he delegates different responsibilities to the Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and much more.

Nevertheless, state lawmakers and agencies assist in the enforcement of these laws. If you would like to know more about federal crimes lawyers, then visit this website for more information.

List of Federal Crimes

There are numerous federal crimes that a person can commit. However, here is a list of the most common federal crimes and their potential serving sentences.

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Insider Trading

At number one, insider trading is one of the most committed crimes by middle-class Americans. This federal crime happens when a person uses private information to trade stocks from a public company.

Some people aren’t aware of the repercussions of this offense as it can be accidentally committed. For example, divulging information to a spouse about a client that prompts the spouse to buy stocks, is considered insider trading.

There are also instances where insider trading is premeditated. Someone who’s found guilty of insider trading may spend up to 20 years in prison!

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement occurs very often especially since the digital world is so heavily saturated with content. Oftentimes this crime happens by accident.

For example, a person will accidentally download or use a copyrighted photo. The prison time for a serious copyright infringement can range anywhere from 3 to 10 years.


Forgery happens when a person artificially produces a copy of a document or a signature. Forgery can be as simple as signing your boss’s name for a package.

However, some more serious cases include forging legal documents such as a permit, license, or legal status paperwork. If you’re charged with forgery, our maximum sentence can be 3 years.


Bribery is a federal crime that includes bribing someone in order to change the outcome of an event. There are instances where people have bribed a judge, police officer, or state official.

These kinds of bribery charges are very serious and result in 1 to 2 years of prison time. However, if you accept a bribe, this can result in up to 10 years of prison.


Fraud occurs when an individual tries to deceive others to get some kind of financial or personal profit. Fraud can be done in many ways and sometimes people aren’t aware that they’re doing it.

Key Differences Between Federal Crimes and State Crimes

There are varying differences between state crimes and federal crimes. Some of these differences relate to how they are processed and scheduled. Keep reading to learn more!

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Can a State Court Case Go to a Federal Court?

Yes, there are instances where a case is moved from a state court to a federal court. These transfers usually happen because the case involves large amounts of money, drugs, or harm to the public.

Caseload: What Court Handles the Most?

On average, a state court will handle more cases than a federal court. This happens because federal cases are a matter of national interest.

State courts also interact with civilians more when compared to federal courts. In fact, there are about 30,000,000 cases filed in state courts every year. And only around 1,000,000 cases are filed in federal courts every year.

Who Establishes Each Court?

Federal courts get established by the United States Constitution. And state courts get established by states. There are also local courts that get established by counties within these states.

Overall, federal courts were established to resolve conflicts that relate to the Constitution. While state courts were established to resolve laws established and enforced by the state.

How Are Court Dates Scheduled?

State trials happen more often than federal trials because of the high caseload. In fact, federal court judges will only hear one case per hearing.

However, state court judges often have multiple cases per hearing. State court dates can also differ because the state prosecutors go towards a faster trial method.

What Are the Differences in Court Procedures?

State and federal procedures vary greatly. For example, there are major differences within state court proceedings as they vary from state to state. However, for federal courts, the procedures remain the same throughout.

This is why it’s important to retain an attorney who is highly specialized in federal crimes.

What Are the Differences in Punishment?

Those who commit a state crime will be jailed in state prison. However, depending on your crime, your crime could be less severe such as probation. Punishment times vary greatly depending on the crime committed.

Get Legal Help Today

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So you’ve learned the key differences between a state crime and federal crime! So what’s next? For starters, hire an attorney who specializes in either state or federal crimes.

Once you’ve found a prospective lawyer, you can begin your legal journey.