The national government creates laws for the whole country, and states make laws that only apply to their residents. Depending on the violation, you may face charges for a state or federal offense. You may be wondering whether a crime falls under federal or state jurisdiction. It is necessary to be aware of the differences.


Once you know which type of court hears certain cases, you can become one step closer to getting the help of an attorney.

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State Crimes

Most of the time, you will come across crimes on a state level. State governments establish criminal laws and the consequences for violating them. State agents and police officers may investigate the offenses, and a state district attorney prosecutes them. State crimes have more variety compared to federal crimes.

Drug possession

One of the crimes Florida handles is drug possession. The state defines drug possession as having one or more illegal controlled substances on your person. If you intend to manufacture, sell, or distribute the drug, it is considered drug trafficking. Common controlled substances in Miami include marijuana and cocaine.

The consequences of drug possession vary depending on the type of substance. For example, having less than 20 grams of marijuana can result in up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. Cocaine is a felony that can lead to a maximum of five years in prison and as much as $5,000 in fines.


Florida’s law considers theft as the act of knowingly obtaining the property of another person. If a person uses the property for their advantage or to deny someone access to their belongings, they can get charged with theft. The type of theft and value of the property can determine the penalties.

One form is petit theft, which depends on the value of the stolen property. You could face 60 days in prison and a $500 fine if the item is worth less than $100. Over $100 can result in up to a year in jail. Grand theft charges can fall under three categories, with grand theft of the first degree being the most serious offense.

Assault and Battery

Other crimes Florida handles include assault and battery. Assault refers to the threat of harm that causes you to fear for your safety. Battery is when the defendant makes physical contact by using an object or hands. The act of threatening or striking someone needs to be intentional for simple assault and battery charges.

In Florida, assault is a second-degree misdemeanor. Charges can result in a first-degree misdemeanor when cases involve specific victims like police officers. Battery is a first-degree misdemeanor, but special victims can lead to a third-degree felony conviction.

Federal Crimes

Federal crimes fall under fewer classifications since lawmakers can only pass laws that have national interests. Crimes under federal jurisdiction include immigration violations and when the defendant crosses state lines.

Usually, Assistant U.S. Attorneys prosecute federal crimes. U.S. Code Title 18 lists many crimes considered federal offenses.

Tax Evasion

Tax evasion is when someone manipulates the system to underpay or not pay any taxes. Section 7201 of the United States tax code establishes tax evasion as a federal crime. There are two potential offenses. One is the attempt to evade the assessment of a tax, and the other is the willingness to evade the payment.

The federal government needs to provide evidence the defendant engaged in conduct to mislead the IRS. The government also has to prove additional taxes owed and willfulness. The penalty of tax evasion is a maximum of $100,000, or $500,000 for corporations. A person may also get sentenced to up to five years in prison.


Generally, cases involving fraud get handled on a federal level. It is when you engage in intentional deception or misrepresentation for benefit. The law defines different categories of fraud. They are:

  • Tax fraud
  • Mail and wire fraud
  • Securities fraud
  • Medicaid and Medicare fraud

These crimes typically are considered felony offenses. A person may receive anywhere from 6 months to 20-30 years in prison based on the fraud conviction. Courts can issue significantly high fines. Mail and wire fraud charges may penalize you with $250,000, and organizations may have to pay millions of dollars. Defendants could end up paying restitution to victims as well.


A good or service may appear legitimate but are unauthorized reproductions. Congress passed anti-counterfeiting laws that make forgeries, counterfeits, and alterations to obligations or securities a crime. The phrase “obligations or securities” includes currency. Federal law can extend past the United States border and punish those with foreign possession of tools for counterfeiting U.S. securities.

Currency is a common item in counterfeit cases. Other charges may involve federal court documents, seals of federal agencies, contracts, and bonds. Penalties for counterfeiting currency include a fine of up to $250,000, a maximum of 20 years in prison, or both.

State vs Federal Courts

Federal Crime

State courts will hear a majority of crimes in Miami. As a result, they handle a larger number of cases compared to their federal counterparts. The system gives the courts general jurisdiction, so they oversee every case not delegated to federal courts. Both criminal and civil violations get heard. Florida has 20 judicial circuits, and The Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida covers Miami.

Every state has its federal district courts to hear charges of any violations of federal laws. The system only allows the courts to hear certain types of cases, which is called limited jurisdiction. Cases include lawsuits against the United States and disputes between citizens of different states. For Miami, you would go to the Southern District of Florida. It has multiple courthouse locations in the city.

Do You Need Help?

If you face charges for a federal or a state crime, a lawyer at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. can assist you. Our firm has experienced attorneys to help you get the best results for your case. Whether it is drug possession charges, traffic violations, or credit card fraud, our lawyers will help you through every step of the way.

Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation today.

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