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Difference between State and Federal court?

Parker, AZ |

My boyfriend is currently in jail for possession and transportation of a dangerous drug. Being that he was a passenger in the car and was "nervous" the state says they will attempt to use that as evidence. He was not driving, the car was not his, nor did they find anything on him. The state says they are still waiting fingerprints (still, after two months). The judge ordered one last pretrial conference. Since my bf's lawyer motioned for a speedy trial, he says the state has a right to drag it out the 150 days. But now my bf said they are trying to take it to federal court. I heard that this is standard if the state cannot find stronger evidence. What is the difference between state and federal, and why would they take it to federal.

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Attorney answers 4


Both can prosecute him separately - they are not one prosecutorial unit. There is a State charge he is currently held under and a possible Federal drug charge that he may be indicted for. He needs to work with his attorney right now to get a handle on this situation. if there is a Federal indictment, he faces a hard reality that there is good evidence and therefore needs a great Federal attorney to cover all of the angles.


We are talking about the legal jurisdictional precept of "Separate Sovereigns."

There are different crimes or separate elements of the state and federal crimes charged.

Often, the state offenses are completed offenses, while the golden child of the federal prosecutors is conspiracy.

Also, generally speaking federal offenses are accompanied by MUCH harsher sentences.

Talk to his lawyer and consult a federal criminal practitioner as well.

This can happen, so get on it right away.

Good luck.

Answer for educational purposes only.


I wouldn't say that it is standard for a case to go federal if the state has weak evidence. The determination typically is whether or not the federal prosecutors and law enforcement want the case. If it is a big enough case and they can claim it deals with the crossing of state lines, then the feds can take it.

It does not surprise me that you are waiting more than two months for fingerprint results. The law enforcement agencies forensic units are often overwhelmed with requests for analysis.

John Kelly
Kelly Law Team


I agree with my Avvo Colleagues. Consult and retain an experienced criminal defense attorney in your jurisdiction ASAP.

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