I’m Being Charged at the State and Federal Levels – What Should I Do?
In general, people are charged of a crime at either the state level or the federal level, but sometimes you can be charged at both state and federal levels. Often this happens in drug cases. For example, you may be charged with trafficking drugs across state lines at a federal level and charged with possession and distribution at a state level. This applies to other crimes too, though. For example, if you rob a bank, you can be charged at the state level for the robbery, but also at the federal level for robbing an FDIC-insured institution.
When you are charged at two levels like this, you are facing serious trouble. The sentences for crimes at the state level will be handed down separately than those at the federal level, which means you must serve any prison time consecutively in different prisons. Plus the trials will be held in two courthouses at different times. This means a longer, more difficult process. When you are charged at both the state and federal levels, you must build two different defenses and be judged by two independent juries.
This can be quite a stressful experience. If you have been charged in multiple jurisdictions, it is important to have and experienced Pennsylvania criminal attorney who has an understanding of the complexities of and differences between each charge. A cookie cutter defense will not work for both trials, as each charge is slightly different.
Isn’t It Illegal to Charge Me for the Same Crime Twice?
Double jeopardy, or charging someone with the same crime twice, is illegal in the United States. That’s why once a court finds you not guilty of a crime, you are free forever, no matter what evidence is found later. This double jeopardy rule only applies in the case of the exact same crime, though.
If the Pennsylvania state law is even slightly different than the federal law, they are considered separate crimes. Just like you can be charged for a weapons violation and robbery for an armed robbery, you can be charged with both the federal and sate violations. Many drug laws differ slightly in their scope and wording, making them divergent. Plus, so many federal and state laws cover different aspects of a specific crime, changing the impact of the charge slightly.
This difference is known as the petite doctrine, and it has been upheld in many courts. State and federal charges for the same crime are permitted and do not come under double jeopardy laws. Because you can be charged for a crime at both state and federal levels, it is important to take such charges very seriously. You face a charge in Pennsylvania courts and in federal courts, so you need two well-prepared defenses.
Don’t leave this to two separate attorneys. Make sure all efforts for your defense are coordinated by one single Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer. If you are facing serious charges at either the state level, the federal level, or both, call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146 to speak with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal attorney. We have the experience and determination needed to get you the best results in any court. Contact us for a free consultation on your case today.