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Criminal charges in the state and federal court systems

Have you been arrested? Are you facing criminal charges? You may wonder whether you will face a judge in one of New York’s state courts or in a federal court. Typically, a federal court tries cases involving federal crimes, and state courts hear cases that involve violations of state and local laws. However, it can be more complicated than that.

State offenses

Most offenses are violations of state law, so you are more likely to appear in a New York state court than a federal court. You may be found in violation of a state law or a municipal or local ordinance if you are convicted of a crime such as:

  • Auto theft
  • Burglary or trespassing
  • Assault and battery
  • Child abuse, neglect or kidnapping
  • Arson
  • Prostitution

Federal offenses

If you allegedly commit a federal crime, you will appear before a judge in a U.S. federal court. For example, white collar crimes are often federal offenses. Often financially motivated, they do not necessarily involve threats or violence and can include:

  • Fraud, including corporate, mortgage, financial institution, health care and mass marketing fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Election law violations
  • Public corruption and bribery

Federal judges hear cases involving computer crimes and copyright infringement. Illegal weapons charges such as drug-related gun charges, possessing a gun in a federal building or using a gun to commit a felony are a few of the weapons charges that are tried in a federal court.

Offenses that may be both

New York has many state laws that overlap with federal laws and can include more restrictions and harsher penalties. If your case involves an offense that violates both state and federal law, you may end up in either court depending on what federal and state prosecutors decide.

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