The State and Federal Court Systems: How Punishment Differs

Article Submitted by Elon Berk

The Federal and State criminal justice systems can vary on their punishments and handling of case law in crimes you’re involved in. It’s important to note that a Federal crime crosses state lines, or is somehow international in nature. Federal crimes are known to have much harsher punishments, where State judicial systems have a bit more discretion.

What does this mean for someone accused of a crime?

The Immigration Example

Illegal immigration is a controversial topic, but common examples of how it affects play out every day. Let’s say an immigrant settles in Los Angeles and decides to purchase a home. Just before the home purchase goes through, this person decides to cash invest on another business venture and take out a loan to buy the home.

This person is wealthy, but falsifies tax returns to get the loan. At the time, this seems harmless, as the loan has zero chance of ever being in default. However, the FBI sees things very differently. That innocent homeowner can face up to five years in jail for falsifying tax returns.

However, if the State court system had handled the case it may have gone differently. The judge could have recognized a first-time offender, and doled out a punishment that better fits the crime.

This example shows how the Federal judicial system often carries much harsher sentences for crimes, where a State judicial system may seem more lenient. The law is applied equally in both cases, but Federal judges tend to stick closer to the guidelines on punishment as opposed to State judges.

Elon Berk is a Criminal Defense Attorney and managing partner at “Gurovich, Berk & Associates.” Elon Berk is also the co-founder Enkrypt, a secure communication app for the iPhone.