Picked up by the Feds: When State Crimes turn into Federal Investigations.

Posted by Tab Lawhorn | May 30, 2023 | 0 Comments

State criminal charges can become federal criminal charges in certain circumstances. This process is known as "federalization" of a case.

Federalization can occur when a state crime also violates a federal law or if the crime has a substantial impact on interstate commerce. For example, if a person is accused of drug trafficking, which is a violation of both state and federal law, the federal government can choose to prosecute the case instead of the state.

Additionally, in some cases, the federal government may choose to intervene in a state case to enforce federal law or protect federal interests. This could occur, for example, in cases involving civil rights violations or corruption of public officials.

It's important to note that federalization of a case can have significant consequences, including more severe penalties and a different legal process. If you have been charged with a crime, it's important to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney to understand your rights and options.

In some cases, the federal government may choose to intervene in a state criminal case if there is a federal interest at stake. This can occur in a number of situations, such as:

  1. Civil rights violations: If there are allegations of civil rights violations, such as excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, the federal government may choose to intervene to protect the constitutional rights of individuals.

  2. Corruption of public officials: If there are allegations of corruption of public officials, such as bribery or embezzlement, the federal government may intervene to protect the integrity of government institutions and ensure that justice is served.

  3. National security concerns: If there are national security concerns at stake, such as terrorism or espionage, the federal government may intervene to protect the safety and security of the nation.

When the federal government intervenes in a state criminal case, it can take over the prosecution or work with state prosecutors to ensure that federal interests are protected. This can involve bringing federal charges in addition to or instead of state charges, as well as ensuring that federal sentencing guidelines are followed.

It's worth noting that federal intervention in a state case is relatively rare and typically only occurs in cases where there is a significant federal interest at stake. In most cases, state criminal charges are prosecuted in state court, and federal criminal charges are prosecuted in federal court.

What about Double Jeopardy?  How can I be charged in both State and Federal Court for the same criminal conduct?

Federalization of a state criminal case does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Double Jeopardy Clause protects individuals from being prosecuted twice for the same offense in the same court system, but it does not prohibit a state and federal government from prosecuting someone for the same criminal conduct.

This is because the state and federal governments are considered separate sovereigns with their own criminal justice systems. Each has the authority to prosecute someone for the same conduct under their respective laws without violating the Double Jeopardy Clause.

However, it's worth noting that there are some limitations on federalization. For example, the federal government cannot prosecute someone for a state crime that has already been fully resolved in state court. Additionally, federalization cannot be used as a way to evade state procedural protections or to bring charges in federal court that could not have been brought in state court.

Overall, while federalization of a state criminal case does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause, it is a complex legal issue that can have significant consequences for individuals facing criminal charges. If you are facing criminal charges, it's important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you on your legal rights and options.

At Lawhorn & Malouf, PLLC, our experienced attorneys have handled many cases that involved both state and federal prosecutions, and can guide you through the process quickly and thoroughly.  Call 903-999-1234 to schedule a consultation about what is possible in your case.

About the Author

Tab Lawhorn

Attorney, Tyler Office Tab E. Lawhorn is a principal partner at Lawhorn & Malouf, PLLC in Tyler, Texas. Mr. Lawhorn represents clients in Tyler and throughout Smith County who are victims of a personal injury caused by negligence. He regularly handles matters involving car wrecks, trucking accidents, wrongful death and premises liability.


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