Can I Face Criminal Charges for the Same Crime in Both State Court and Federal Court?

The short answer is yes if the criminal conduct you were involved in violated both state law and federal law then you can face criminal charges in both state court and federal court. Local or statewide law enforcement agencies including local sheriff’s departments, city police departments, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conduct criminal investigations involving potential criminal activity that violates Florida Law. The U.S. government also has federal laws that criminalize certain conduct; those crimes are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). State crimes are prosecuted by the state attorney’s office and federal crimes are prosecuted by U.S. District Attorneys. It is possible to be investigated by multiple law enforcement agencies at both the state and federal level for the same criminal conduct, and to subsequently be prosecuted in both state and federal court.

Many people are under the impression that the Double Jeopardy clause in the federal constitution protects them from being charged criminally for the same conduct in both state and federal court. Under the double jeopardy clause, no person can be tried twice by the same sovereign for the same offense. Each state is a separate sovereign from the United States and therefore an individual can be tried by both the state and federal government without the double jeopardy clause being violated.

An example of a common criminal activity that may allow someone to face charges in both state and federal courts would be drug trafficking, fraud charges, child pornography, and weapons charges. In many situations, an individual will be prosecuted by either the federal government or the state government, even if they were investigated by both state and federal law enforcement agencies. In some situations, an individual may be prosecuted by both. Sentencing also differs between the state and federal level, with federal sentencing guidelines often being stricter for federal crimes. Consulting with an attorney who has experience in handling both federal and state level criminal defense cases can help you to better understand the legal process, as well as what your rights and potential legal defenses are in both court systems.