While North Carolina prosecutes some criminal offenses, federal courts handle other types of crimes. In general, federal offenses violate a federal statute, take place on federal lands such as a national park or cross state lines. However, some crimes can result in either state or federal charges.
These are the main factors that distinguish between North Carolina or federal charges.
Nature of the crime
Examples of offenses that fall under federal laws include political assassination, immigration violations, election fraud, mailbox destruction, wiretapping offenses, Patriot Act violations, identity theft, credit card fraud, kidnapping, bank robbery, lynching and carjacking. In addition, most computer crimes result in federal charges. Drug charges move from the state court to the federal court when the offender crosses state lines or possesses more than a certain amount of the controlled substance in question.
Severe aggravating factors
Some crimes fall into federal jurisdiction with the presence of factors that increase the offense’s severity. Examples include sexual abuse, identity theft, battery or assault when these crimes involve a weapon, result in another person’s death or target a vulnerable population.
North Carolina has its own sentencing guidelines, while the federal guidelines establish minimum and maximum sentences for federal crimes. Generally, an offender will serve a longer term in federal prison if convicted of a federal crime, while a conviction in North Carolina would result in a shorter term in state prison.
When a federal prosecutor has the evidence to charge someone with a federal crime, he or she can pursue a grand jury hearing to determine whether to pursue charges. The offender has the right to attorney representation during this process.