Examples of Federal Crimes vs. State Crimes

judge with gavel, federal crimes

Examples of Federal Crimes vs. State Crimes

What Is Considered a Federal Crime?

Federal crimes are violations of the U.S. Constitution and always overrule state law. The majority of criminal trials are held in state courts. For a crime to go to federal court, it must be of federal interest. See below for some examples of common federal crimes vs. common state crimes. 

Some factors that make a crime a federal offense are:

    1. the criminal activity occurs in multiple states
    2. The crime happened on federal property (like the robbery of a federal bank)
    3. A specific federal law was violated
    4. The crime involves citizens from different states

The federal courts may take a case where state law goes against constitutional law. The supremacy clause, which is outlined in the Constitution, states that federal law will always trump state law. 

When state and federal laws don’t align, the general idea is that the federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction within the state borders. However, the federal government can interfere and decide to convict you of a federal crime. 

A common example of this is the legalization of marijuana. Some states allow the use of medicinal or recreational marijuana. Yet, the federal government has it listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. This makes the use, possession, or sale of the drug federally illegal

State Crimes vs. Federal Crimes

The difference between state crimes vs. federal crimes boils down to where the court proceedings will occur (jurisdiction). For a state crime, court will be held in the city or county where the crime was committed. For a federal crime, there are three levels to the court system: district court, court of appeals, and the Supreme Court. 

Common Examples of Federal Crimes:

  • IRS (tax) violations and mail fraud
  • drug trafficking/drug possession
  • kidnapping 
  • counterfeiting bills
  • immigration crimes 
  • copyright infractions
  • child pornography 

Examples of Common State Crimes:

  • traffic violations
  • contract breach
  • robbery/burglary/theft
  • rape
  • arson

In Arizona, some of the most common crimes are aggravated assault, other violent crimes (such as assault, rape, and murder), and burglary.  

Representation Matters

In 2014 in Arizona, there were fewer than 100 lawyers certified as Criminal Law Specialists. Todd Coolidge is one of those lawyers. He is a member of the Criminal Law Advisory Commission and has been a certified specialist for twenty years. For legal representation in Chandler, Arizona and the surrounding areas, contact the office of Todd Coolidge. He deals with cases of domestic violence, DUIs, traffic offenses, and felonies


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