What Are the Differences Between a Federal and a State Charge?

It can be difficult to determine the difference between state crimes and federal crimes. In most cases, state charges are those which are determined by each state’s own legislature and laws and can vary from one state to the next. Federal charges are those which have been written into legislation by Congress and are enforced on a national level.

There are, however, many specific things to note when differentiating between the two.

State Charges

In Texas, state charges are enforced by law enforcement. In these charges, the state has jurisdiction, meaning they have the power to settle the case in court. Most of these laws can be found in the Texas State Penal Code, where the state’s offenses are listed. A few of the most common state charges in Texas include:

federal vs state charges

Federal Charges

These are more severe charges, as they are prosecuted on a federal level. Federal charges are those issued for any crime which involves federal officers or takes place on federal land, takes place across state lines, violates immigration and customs laws, or involves fraud, misrepresentation, or deception against the federal government. These cases are heard in federal court and are therefore more serious. A few of the most common federal charges include:

Penalties for State Charges

Because there is such a wide variety of state charges, the penalties for these charges vary greatly. Generally, state charges are broken into the following categories (ordered least severe to most) and are punishable by the following penalties:

  • Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
  • Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
  • State jail felony, punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • First-degree felony, punishable by up to life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Capital felony, punishable by life imprisonment or (in the state of Texas) the death sentence.

Penalties for Federal Charges

penalties and chargesSince federal charges are more severe than state charges, their penalties are also more severe. These penalties may vary but are generally decided based on federal sentencing guidelines. Factors like the severity of the crime, the offender’s criminal record, and the nature of the charges will all play a role in determining the penalties for a federal charge.

In general, prison times for a federal charge are longer, and those convicted will be sent to federal prison, rather than a state penitentiary. It’s more difficult for an attorney to manage a plea bargain for a federal charge, as these are more serious cases. Additionally, offenders may only have to serve 50 percent of their jail time and may be allowed to avoid the rest with community service and good behavior on a state charge, whereas, for a federal charge, the average offender serves 85 percent of their prison time.

Need help? Call the Law Offices of Mark T. Lassiter Today

Determining the difference between a state charge and a federal charge is no easy task. Even if you know the similarities and differences between the two, there are many specific nuances associated with each. Beyond this, it’s important that you understand the implications of a state or federal charge.

At the Law Offices of Mark T. Lassiter, we’re committed to helping our clients through each step of the legal process. From sitting down with you to discuss the specifics of your situation to communicating with law enforcement and helping you manage paperwork, our attorneys fight to defend your rights. Since 2006, we’ve been defending Texans just like you, working hard to bring favorable outcomes to each client we serve.

Call the Law Offices of Mark T. Lassiter today at (214) 845-7007 to discuss your situation. One of our criminal defense attorneys can discuss your case with you so that you can get the best understanding of your charges and have all of your questions answered.

Top Rated Lawyer - Rating 10.0
Top 10 Dallas (BEST D)
Dallas Bar Association
Texas Criminal Lawyers Association
Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
Super-Lawyers Logo
American Association for Justice
The National Trial Lawyers - Top 100 Trial Lawyers
Free Case Evaluation