In the United States, criminal cases can be prosecuted at either the state or federal level. However, the prosecutorial jurisdiction depends on the nature of the crime and the where it occurred. In Texas, there are specific distinctions between state and federal felony criminal charges.
Today, we’ll outline the differences between these two prosecuting entities. We’ll look at a few examples of the types of crimes involved, how the cases are prosecuted, and give you a general idea of the penalties associated with guilty convictions.
Jurisdiction and Types of Crimes
State felony charges typically involve crimes that occur within the borders of Texas and are in violation of state laws. Common examples of state felony offenses include murder, robbery, sexual assault, burglary, drug possession, and aggravated assault. Drunk driving or DWI is a big one too.
Federal felony charges, on the other hand, involve crimes that violate federal laws or occur across state lines. These may include drug trafficking, organized crime, terrorism, white-collar crimes (such as embezzlement or fraud), interstate kidnapping, and certain firearm offenses. Additionally, crimes committed on federal property, such as military bases or national parks, will also fall under federal jurisdiction.
Law Enforcement and Prosecution
State felony cases are investigated by local or state law enforcement agencies, such as the Texas Department of Public Safety or local police departments. These cases are then prosecuted by District Attorneys (DAs) or County Attorneys, who represent the state in court.
Federal felony cases are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). These cases are prosecuted by United States Attorneys, who represent the federal government in court.
State felony cases are tried in state courts, which are organized by county in Texas. These courts handle the vast majority of criminal cases and are overseen by elected judges.
Federal felony cases are tried in federal courts, which are organized into districts. Texas has four federal districts: the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western Districts. Federal judges are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate.
Punishments may include fines, probation, community service, and imprisonment in state prison. The last place anyone wants to be locked up in TDC.
Texas has five categories of felonies, ranging from state jail felonies (the least severe) to first-degree felonies (the most severe), each with its own range of potential penalties. Also worth nothing, first-degree felonies can be enhanced in some circumstances.
Federal felony convictions often carry more severe penalties than state convictions. Sentences for federal crimes are determined by the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account the nature of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history. Federal penalties can include substantial fines, probation, restitution, and imprisonment in federal prison.
In conclusion, the differences between state and federal felony charges in Texas are primarily based on the jurisdiction, types of crimes involved, law enforcement and prosecution agencies, court systems, and penalties. Understanding these distinctions is important for anyone facing criminal charges or involved in the criminal justice system in Texas.