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The Difference Between State and Federal Criminal Charges in North Carolina

If you have been charged with a crime in North Carolina, you must understand whether you are facing a state or federal charge. If you are facing a state charge, your case will be brought against you by a North Carolina prosecutor. If you are facing a charge for a federal crime, a federal prosecutor will bring the charge against you in a federal court. Federal charges often carry more severe penalties, but only sometimes. Understanding the main differences between state and federal criminal charges in North Carolina can help you understand your rights.

What are Commonly Charged State Crimes?

Every state, including North Carolina, has its criminal code. North Carolina's criminal code sets forth all prosecutable crimes against people. State-based criminal charges involve local defendants and victims in North Carolina. The crime must have been committed in North Carolina for a person to be charged under North Carolina law. The prosecution will proceed according to state law and rules of criminal procedure. The defendant will be charged with penalties that North Carolina has established for the crime if they are convicted. The most commonly prosecuted state-level crimes include driving while intoxicated (DWI), drug possession, and theft. State prosecutors also pursue most homicide charges.

What are Commonly Charged Federal Crimes?

The federal government prosecutes federal crimes according to federal law. In most cases, federal crimes occur in multiple states, such as drug distribution charges. Every state has its own set of laws. When a crime could be subject to the laws of more than one state, it may be charged as a federal crime instead. Many federal crimes involve criminal activity related to interstate commerce, crimes that occur on federal property, and criminal activity that occurs in multiple states. An example of a criminal charge that involves multiple states and interstate commerce would be drug trafficking drugs that originated in another country through multiple U.S. states.

What if There is a Conflict Between State and Federal Charges?

Some types of criminal acts are state and federal crimes. For example, North Carolina has drug trafficking laws, and so does the federal government. When there is a question as to whether the crime should be charged as a state or federal crime, federal prosecutors usually decide to take the case. The specific circumstances and facts involved in the crime will be critical when determining whether state or federal prosecutors handle the case. In rare cases, the state and federal government can prosecute a defendant because the constitutional right against double jeopardy does not apply since the jurisdiction, laws, and penalties differ from state to federal court.

The Impact of Facing Federal Criminal Charges

Whether or not your case is tried in state or federal court will have a severe impact on the potential penalties you will face. Many federal crimes, including drug trafficking crimes, carry strict mandatory minimum sentences. State charges will be prosecuted in the county where the alleged crime occurred.

On the contrary, federal charges will be brought in one of only three federal district courts in North Carolina: Western, Middle, or Eastern. If you are facing a federal charge, you could be required to travel for court appearances or be in prison far away from your family instead of in a jail that is closer to you.

The Difference Between State and Federal Drug Charges

Federal prosecutors and investigators have cracked down on drug-related charges. If you suspect that you are being investigated for a drug charge, it is important that you reach out to an attorney, even if you have not been arrested yet. The DEA and FBI have significant resources, and they will use them to gather evidence against you. If you are facing a federal drug charge, your attorney must understand and know the practices of those agencies and how to defend you in federal court.

Have You Been Charged with a Federal Crime in North Carolina? We are Here to Help

If you have been charged with a federal crime in North Carolina, it is crucial that you contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible. Having an attorney is always important, but it is essential if you have been charged with a federal crime because federal crimes generally carry much more serious penalties.

The federal government often has more resources than the state to prosecute defendants. You will need a defense attorney who knows how to navigate the complex federal court procedures while aggressively defending you and negotiating for the best outcome possible. Contact the skilled Charlotte criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, LLC, to schedule a free case evaluation.