State v. Federal Crimes
The difference between state and federal crimes is the jurisdiction under which the crime falls. States have the broad authority to regulate legality of different behaviors in their jurisdiction, while the federal government is given authority to legislate only where there is a federal or national interest at hand.
State crimes include almost every category and type of crime in existence, including theft, robbery, murder, assault, fraud, DUI, and more. When these crimes occur within the boundaries of a single state, the state has the authority to prosecute them and to enforce whichever state laws were broken. As long as state laws are constitutional, governments can pass nearly any law they find prudent and have exclusive jurisdiction over their states.
When a crime occurs across state lines, involves federal officers, takes place on land in a federal jurisdiction, involves patent or trademark claims, or regards immigration and customs laws, the crime is in a federal jurisdiction. This means that crimes can be prosecuted by the federal government and are generally considered more serious.
State and Federal Court Systems
State and Federal crimes are are subject to different court systems, sentencing guidelines, and even prison systems (if convicted and sentenced to prison time).
State crimes are often prosecuted by state district attorneys, city attorneys, or state/local prosecuting solicitors. State district attorneys are elected or appointed depending on state law, serve term lengths according to their relevant state laws, and serve as the foremost legal authority in the district.
In the Federal system, the United States Attorney is appointed by the President of the United States. The United States Attorney is the chief federal law enforcement officer of the United States within his or her jurisdiction. Federal crimes are often prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs).
Judges in South Carolina
Federal judges are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. These judges are appointed to lifetime terms, leaving their office only upon death, retirement, or removal from office (only by impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives and subsequent conviction by the U.S. Senate.)
State judges are often elected by the state legislators to various term lengths, depending on the type of court over which they provide. In South Carolina, probate and family court judges are elected by the state legislature to four and six year terms, respectively. Other courts, such as magistrate and masters-in-equity courts, are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate. Municipal courts, presiding over individual municipalities and counties, are appointed depending on the laws of their respective municipalities.
There are approximately 300 magistrates in South Carolina, each serving the county for which he or she is appointed. Magistrates generally have criminal trial jurisdiction over all offenses subject to the penalty of a fine, as set by statute, but generally, not exceeding $500.00 or imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, or both. In addition, they are responsible for setting bail, conducting preliminary hearings, and issuing arrest and search warrants. Magistrates have civil jurisdiction when the amount in controversy does not exceed $7,500.
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In all state and federal cases, the nature of your case will depend on the jurisdiction under which it falls. It is vital to contact an attorney who has the qualification and experience to adequately defend you in whichever jurisdiction you need representation.