One of the many legal issues that can cause confusion for non-lawyers is the fact there are 50 states and the Federal Government, and each one has its own set of laws. The difficulties that this can create often forms the basis for most of a case, and can even determine its outcome. If you buy a used car in New Hampshire that has a defect from their mechanic's mistake, and this causes an accident after you drive it back to Maine, the laws of New Hampshire or the laws of Maine might apply. Minute differences can make a huge difference in the case – such as whether you can get any money for the pain and suffering you went through after the accident.
Luckily, things are easier when it comes to criminal law, and even easier when it's just between the laws of the state of Maine and those of the Federal Government. However, that doesn't mean that things are straightforward.
The Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution
Maine and the Federal Government both have their own laws on the books. Generally speaking, states like Maine are more willing to regulate smaller things than the Federal Government, which is more concerned with preventing major crimes. However, there will come a time when certain conduct violates both federal law and Maine state law.
In these cases, the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution takes effect. This Clause states that federal laws trump state laws when they could apply to the same action or situation.
However, if you get arrested for a crime that violates both state and federal law, this does not necessarily mean that you will face federal charges, and not state charges. Just because federal law can be applied does not mean that it always does.
Federal Prosecutors Often Let States Handle Lower-Level Crimes
Because people in any one of the 50 states in the U.S. can commit a federal crime, federal prosecutors can be picky about which ones they go after, and which ones to let the states prosecute.
As a result, federal prosecutors often exercise their jurisdiction only when the crime is especially egregious. For example, if it's a white collar crime, federal prosecutors are more likely to let states handle situations where only $25,000 was extorted than if $250,000 was extorted. However, other factors can come into play, as well, such as the publicity of the case or how political it can be.
Federal Charges Require a Defense Attorney With Federal Experience
A charge for a federal crime is almost always more serious than one for a state crime. They often carry heavier penalties, and typically are prosecuted far more vigorously. They are also handled in federal court, where an entirely different set of procedures are used. Each of these factors make it important to hire a criminal defense attorney who understands federal crimes. Call the law office of William T. Bly at (207) 571-8146 or contact him online, if you've been charged with a federal crime.