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Tampa Criminal Lawyer > Blog > Federal Criminal Defense > What Determines Whether A Criminal Case Goes To Federal Court?

What Determines Whether A Criminal Case Goes To Federal Court?


If you read the news carefully, you might have noticed that some people convicted of crimes serve sentences in federal prison, while others serve sentences in state prison.  (Of course, there are plenty of cases where a conviction results in a sentence that does not involve prison, but those cases are less likely to make the news.)  Likewise, some cases are called Plaintiff’s Name v. Defendant’s Name, while others are called Florida v. Defendant’s Name or United States v. Defendant’s Name.  The first type of cases are civil cases, such as business disputes, personal injury lawsuits, and divorce cases.  The second are state criminal cases, and the third are federal criminal cases.  State and federal criminal cases have many more things in common than they have differences.  All criminal defense lawyers licensed to practice law in Florida have the right to represent defendants in criminal court, but not all of them have permission to represent defendants who are facing federal charges.  If you are facing federal charges, contact a Tampa federal criminal process lawyer.

Not Every Crime That Violates Federal Law Goes to Federal Court

Yes, there are differences between state laws and federal laws. A noticeable example is that federal law considers cannabis a Schedule I controlled substance with no legally accepted medical uses, but Florida has a robust medical cannabis industry, and some cities and counties have even decriminalized possession of small quantities of cannabis.  In the 2024 election, voters might even have the chance to vote on an amendment to the Florida Constitution that would decriminalize recreational cannabis.  Despite this, the federal government and the states agree on the definitions of most crimes.

Criminal cases go through federal court not because of their inherent severity (most violent crime cases go through state court), but because they involve federal people, places, or funds.  These are some reasons that a criminal case might be federal:

  • The defendant or victim was a federal employee, whether military or civilian
  • The alleged crime happened at a federal building
  • The alleged crime happened on tribal land
  • The alleged crime harmed a federal entity, as in the case of Medicaid fraud or a phishing scam targeting a federal agency
  • A federal agency such as the DEA or FBI investigate the alleged crime
  • Conspirators, contraband, or communications crossed state lines in the course of the alleged crime

Therefore, drug trafficking cases are usually federal, because the drugs cross state lines or national borders.  Internet sex crime cases are also often federal because of the online transmission of illegal content among people in different states.  Fraud cases also tend to be federal, especially when the defendant and the recipient of the scam emails are in different states.

Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven

A criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are being accused of federal crimes, including but not limited to wire fraud, drug trafficking, or Internet sex crimes.  Contact Scriven Law in Tampa, Florida to schedule a consultation.

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