Interviewer: At what point would a drug charge become a federal crime or a federal case?
Court: At any point that can happen. The way that it works between federal and state crimes is many violations are both federal offences and state offenses. For example, it’s illegal to possess cocaine or marijuana and both the federal and state codes have statutes for that.
Federal or State Court: Which Court You Will Be Prosecuted in Depends on Which Investigative Agency Made the Arrest
Which court you are prosecuted in depends on which investigative agency has arrested you. Most of the time, you’re going to be arrested and charged by state or city police or a state Sherriff or highway patrol. Those cases will be referred to the state attorney’s office or the city attorney’s office and then go to the state courts.
Federal crimes are where there is an investigation undertaken by a federal agency and you are arrested by the FBI or ATF, as an example. Those cases get referred to a different office. A federal crime is referred to the United States Attorney General’s office, Utah division and it will be heard in the federal court.
Minor Drug Cases That Are Charged in Federal Court Are Usually Part of a Larger Scale Investigation by a Federal Agency, Such as the FBI
While you can be charged with a minor drug crime in federal courts technically, usually that would happen because the case is part of a larger scale operation that are being investigated by an agency like the FBI.
Interviewer: What assistance would you be able to provide someone in that case? Would you still be able to work with them if it has escalated to a federal case?
If You Are Charged Federally, Your Attorney Has to Be Admitted to Federal Court to Defend the Case
Court: Absolutely. I’m admitted in both the federal and state courts so that’s not a problem.
From a criminal law perspective there is not really any difference as far as the strategy or the approach to how you handle those cases. The main difference is just that the case is tried in front of a different judge and with a different prosecutor’s office. To an attorney, the rest of the proceeding is the same in state and federal court in terms of the way that it unfolds.