Federal & State Crimes

Based in Salt Lake City, the Utah federal crime defense lawyers at Brass & Cordova handle both federal and state criminal cases in all counties and districts in Utah. With 45 years of combined criminal law experience, our attorneys possess the knowledge and experience to handle the full spectrum of criminal charges, from misdemeanors to capital murder cases, with the right balance of strategic planning and aggressive advocacy.

Understanding the Difference between Federal & State Criminal Charges

The basic difference between federal and state criminal offenses is that a federal offense violates a federal law and a state offense violates a state law. In some cases, however, federal and state laws cover the same area of criminal law. For example, Utah state laws criminalize certain alleged offenses against the environment, while at the same time the federal government enforces its environmental crimes program through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

With regard to environmental crimes, federal and state laws can coexist because they are in agreement, but if a state law contradicts a federal law, the federal law generally trumps the state law in the interest of the national welfare. In other areas of criminal law, the federal government has exclusive power to regulate, enforce, and prosecute alleged crimes. These matters often involve interstate commerce, national security, and federal programs. This is why most alleged white collar crimes, such as credit card fraud, tax evasion, and welfare fraud, are prosecuted in federal courts. Other examples of federal crimes include:

  • Counterfeiting money or money laundering
  • RICO violations or racketeering
  • Immigration crimes
  • Public corruption crimes
  • Intellectual property crimes, such copyright and trademark infringement

State criminal laws generally cover any area of criminal law not exclusively reserved by the federal government. This means that most crimes against a person or property are state crimes, including homicide, sex crimes, robbery, burglary, and domestic violence. But if a crime crosses state lines, it may still fall under federal jurisdiction. For instance, most drug offenses are handled in state courts, but drug trafficking is a federal crime; likewise, many sex crimes become federal crimes if the alleged victim is taken to another state.

Other offenses may be charged as federal or state crimes depending on other alleged crimes committed at the same time or as part of a criminal plan. A good example is conspiracy. If two people conspire to commit securities fraud, the conspiracy will likely be charged as a federal offense; however, if two people conspire to commit murder, the conspiracy will likely be charged as a state crime.

In some cases, a crime walks the line between a federal and state offense. For example, a common gang-related crime is graffiti, which is a state or local offense. However, if a person allegedly tags a federal building or vehicle, such as a courthouse, post office, or mail truck, the offense could be charged as a federal crime. We do everything we can to keep close cases in state courts, thus avoiding the possibility of a federal prison sentence.

Seek Experienced, Knowledgeable Defense Representation

If you or a loved one faces federal or state criminal charges in Utah, please contact Brass & Cordova for a free initial consultation. For the convenience of our clients, we offer evening and weekend appointment times.