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William Wallshein P.A Motto

Will My Case Go To State Or Federal Court?


Most of the laws that affect your daily life are state laws, rather than federal ones.  Case in point, federal law categorizes cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it is never legal, not even for medical use.  Despite this, the majority of states have cannabis dispensaries of some sort, and as for recreational use, it is totally legal in a few states, whereas Florida has a patchwork of local laws with the effect that smoking weed is legal in the party towns but illegal in the Bible belt.  If you had college classmates from out of state, they were probably amazed that Floridians do not need to parallel park in order to get a driver’s license.  If Florida’s legislature wants to criminalize carving your initials into an orange tree or feeding feral iguanas, it has the right to do so, and the courts of Florida have the right to impose criminal penalties.  If the court sentences you to prison for violating a state law, it can sentence you to state prison.  The federal government can prosecute criminal cases where the defendant breaks a federal law, and if the defendant is convicted, he or she can be sentenced to federal prison.  If you are being charged with a federal crime, contact a West Palm Beach federal crimes lawyer.

Elements of a Federal Crime

Most crimes are illegal under both state and federal laws.  The federal government can decide to prosecute any case it chooses, but it usually only does so when federal entities are harmed by the alleged crime or involved in the investigation.  For example, most murder cases go through state court, even though federal law criminalizes murder.  These are some reasons that the federal criminal courts may get involved in your case:

  • The alleged crime took place in a federal building or on tribal lands
  • Federal agencies such as the FBI or DEA investigated the crime
  • The defendant crossed state lines in furtherance of the alleged crime
  • Conspirators communicated across state lines in furtherance of the crime

In practice, this means that crimes involving multi-state drug trafficking operations often go through the federal criminal courts.  Phishing scams where defendants communicate with victims online also tend to be federal cases.  So do cases involving possession of images depicting the sexual abuse of minors, since these images are usually transmitted and purchased over the Internet, and since the federal Department of Justice is usually involved in the investigation of Internet crimes.

All criminal defense lawyers in Florida can represent defendants in state court, but only lawyers who are officially admitted to represent defendants in federal court can work on federal cases.  If you are facing federal charges, you need a lawyer who has experience representing defendants in federal court.

Contact a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Attorney William Wallshein has more than 39 years of experience, including five years as a prosecutor in Palm Beach County.  Contact William Wallshein P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida to discuss your case.

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