As a San Diego federal criminal defense lawyer, I am often asked, “when is a criminal case a federal case?” Many criminal clients assume that a federal case is more serious than a state one. That is not always correct.
The federal government is a government of limited power or jurisdiction. For a case to be federal, the crime has to involve the violation of federal law. In San Diego or the Southern District of California, most federal crimes involve immigration status or the United States border, which is controlled by the federal government. Any time someone crosses methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, or marijuana into the United States a federal law has been broken.
Drug or narcotics cases are cases that can be prosecuted either in state court or in federal court. As a general rule, smaller cases involving drugs are usually prosecuted by the State. Larger cases are handled often by the feds. ( For a list of federal crimes, see my federal crime page. For a list of state crimes, see my state crime page.)
Sometimes, cases begin with state prosecution and later are prosecuted by the federal government. An example is a federal drug conspiracy. If an individual is arrested with drugs, the case may be handled at first by the state prosecutor and later transferred to the United States Attorney’s Office. This often happens with federal prosecutors are not yet ready to arrest the many individuals involved in a conspiracy.
At the Law Offices of Russell Babcock, we are both federal and state criminal lawyers. We are fully prepared to handle your case regardless of which government branch prosecutes you.
When you believe you are about to be prosecuted either by state or federal prosecutors, call the most experienced and best criminal lawyers to defend you. We are here every day to answer all of your questions and advise you how to handle either a state or federal criminal case.