Will I be prosecuted under Pennsylvania criminal law or federal law?

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Certain kinds of crimes can be prosecuted under either state or federal law. So the question is, how do prosecutors decide under which law to bring a charge against an individual? There are many factors in making this strategic decision between keeping an action within the Pennsylvania criminal law system, or extending it to the federal court system. In today’s blog, your Western PA criminal defense lawyers explain some of these factors to you.

Factors that work toward filing your case in state court include the type of crime, the state’s interest in the crime committed, and whether the crime committed took place in just the singular state or if the crime passed through state lines. Additional factors include the presence of state judges. Meaning that the prosecutors can and often do take into consideration the political stance of a given judge in state court when making a determination.

For example, if you have been charged with possession and intent to distribute marijuana in Pennsylvania, a prosecutor may want to keep a change like this in state court in order to utilize a judge’s stance against marijuana, or zero tolerance policy in general. State judges are elected to their bench positions and can easily lose these spots if they do not live up to the platform they ran on.

Conversely, the US Government may have a national interest in the crime committed. Often, you see this with White Collar crimes including mail and wire fraud. To prove mail or wire fraud, there must be evidence that the crime extended beyond state lines. Additionally, any evidence of organized crime will most likely be a national interest, especially if this applies to the RICO statute.

All and all, states tend to prosecute more of the crimes against other people and property, whereas the government may remove an action to federal court if it classifies as white collar, organized, tax evasion or fraud, treason, or other crimes of the like.

If you are facing a criminal charge, it is in your best interest to speak with an attorney in order to protect your rights. If you have any questions about a pending criminal action, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with our Allegheny County criminal defense team led by attorney Jill Sinatra.