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What Is the Difference Between State and Federal Charges?

When it comes to criminal justice, there is a significant difference between state (or Commonwealth) and federal charges. It’s important to understand the difference between these two types of charges, as they have different penalties and implications. This blog post will discuss those differences and how a Virginia Beach criminal defense lawyer could help if you’re facing either.

What Are Commonwealth Charges?

Commonwealth charges are any criminal offenses that are prosecuted under the laws of a particular state or commonwealth. These charges may include felonies and misdemeanors, depending on the severity of the crime. Generally, misdemeanors are considered less severe than felonies and can be punishable by fines or short-term jail sentences. Felonies are more serious crimes and are punishable by long-term incarceration or even the death penalty in some cases. The penalties for state or commonwealth charges vary and depend on the severity of the offense and any prior convictions. In most cases, state or commonwealth charges are tried in a state or commonwealth court with a local judge rather than in a federal court.

Examples of Commonwealth Charges

Commonwealth charges are crimes that violate the laws of a particular commonwealth. Some examples of Virginia commonwealth charges include:

  • Traffic violations such as driving while intoxicated (DWI)
  • Drug possession
  • Sexual assault
  • Identity theft
  • Driving without a valid license or insurance
  • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Possession of a firearm without a permit

What Are Federal Charges?

Federal charges are criminal offenses that break laws set forth by the federal government. They are tried in federal court. These charges are usually more serious than state or commonwealth-level crimes and might carry stiffer punishments. The federal court system is separate from the state or commonwealth court system, and different rules of evidence apply to federal cases. Depending on the severity of the crime, punishments may include imprisonment, fines, or a combination of both. Federal charges typically involve crimes that cross state and commonwealth lines, involve the interstate commerce system, are committed on federal property, or involve federal agencies or officials.

Examples of Federal Charges

Some of the most common federal charges include:

  • Wire Fraud
  • Bank Fraud
  • Conspiracy
  • Tax Evasion
  • Money Laundering
  • Counterfeiting
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Human Trafficking
  • Illegal Immigration
  • Terrorism

What Are the Differences?

The primary difference between state or commonwealth and federal charges is which laws are broken. Additionally, federal charges are usually more serious and carry harsher penalties. State or commonwealth charges are typically handled in the local court system, while federal charges are heard in a federal court. Another key difference is that state or commonwealth charges are usually prosecuted by the state or commonwealth’s attorney general’s office, while the U.S. attorney general prosecutes federal charges.

How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

After being accused of a crime, it may be beneficial to seek legal assistance from a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A criminal defense attorney could help you understand the differences between state or commonwealth and federal charges, the potential consequences of each, which type you’ve been charged with, and the best way to defend against the charges. In addition, they can provide invaluable advice throughout the criminal process and will work to ensure your rights are protected every step of the way.

Speak with a Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you were charged with a commonwealth or federal crime in Virginia Beach, contact an experienced defense lawyer as soon as possible. The criminal defense attorneys of Pincus Goodman, P.C., could protect your rights and provide high-quality legal representation in your case. Our attorneys are knowledgeable in commonwealth and federal laws, can provide a comprehensive defense strategy, and work toward the best outcome for your situation. Call us at (757) 301-9634 to learn more about how we can help in a confidential legal consultation.

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