When the State dropped its criminal case, you probably breathed a sigh of relief. In most cases, that will be end of it, but you should know the Feds have the right to pick the case up and go for it in Federal Court. They can prosecute any State case, regardless of its severity. Here are some of the basics.
Background: Introduction to the US Court System video
Double jeopardy doesn’t apply:
Double jeopardy protects you from being prosecuted more than once for the same case. For example, you go through a trial on a murder charge and are found not guilty. You cannot be tried a second time by the State for the same crime.
In addition, the State cannot choose a lesser charge for the same crime and go at you again. Both examples would be double jeopardy and it is illegal.
Though the State cannot prosecute again due to the double jeopardy laws, the Federal Government, as a separate entity, CAN step in and prosecute you for the same crime the State failed to prove.
What happens with most cases?
In most cases, if the Feds decide to step in and prosecute, it is because they are charging you with a different crime.
Let’s say the State charged you with armed robbery of a local market, but due to lack of evidence decided to drop the case. Let’s also say you are a previously convicted felon and unable to possess a gun. If the Feds believe you committed the armed robbery, they might not come after you for robbery, but they could prosecute you for being a felon in possession of a firearm, which is a Federal crime.
Sometimes it is purposeful:
State prosecutors across America routinely drop cases against suspects so that the State can step in and pick them up. While both courts are allowed to prosecute for the same crime, it is procedurally easier for the State to step out of the way and let the Feds take over.
Related: What’s the difference between the Federal and State Court systems?
If you find the Feds looking your way either in conjunction with the State or after the State has dropped a case, you should contact an attorney experienced in criminal defense on the Federal and State levels.
You may be interested in: Five things to do before going to Federal Prison