Although most crimes are prosecuted by State authorities, there are some crimes that can be prosecuted by both State and/or the Federal Government. Although the charges may have the same title, crimes charged federally tend to have significantly longer sentences in Federal Prison than a person would receive for the same conduct in State courts. Because of that, it is important to avoid Federal charges if you can.
Federal cases are prosecuted by the United State Government, as represented by the United States Attorney's Office. These prosecutors function in the same capacity as City Attorney, County Attorney or District Attorney prosecutors in their respective jurisdictions.
Sometimes a case may start in State court, and then "go Federal" or, in other words, the State case gets transferred to the Federal court. To best protect your interests, it is important to have an attorney with both State and Federal court experience. When a case is transferred to Federal court, the proceedings start over at the beginning, even if the State case had been proceeding for months, and had resolved issues in State court hearings. It is even possible to be convicted of a crime in State court and then be prosecuted for the same conduct in Federal court without violating the Double Jeopardy clause of the United States Constitution.
In order for a case to qualify for Federal prosecution, it must somehow effect more than the citizens of the State. For example, Federal prosecutors handle cases involving firearms that have been manufactured or sold in interstate commerce, drugs that have been transported across State lines, and financial crimes involving banks, wire transfers, or tax fraud. Other Federal cases come from crimes committed on Federal land, or involving Federal agencies, like the United States Post Office.
Federal crimes are typically investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Postal Inspector's Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Internal Revenue Service, (IRS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These agencies investigate crimes across State lines, and the borders of the United States.
"The local police say he is
a pitbull in court."