Federal vs. State

What’s the difference between a State Crime and a Federal Crime?

A great majority of crimes are violations of state law or local law, however there are federal laws for criminal behavior as well.   Crimes that would fall under federal jurisdiction relate to violations of federal laws for national security, the military, the post office, federal taxes and benefit entitlement programs.  In some instances crimes can be prosecuted in either state or federal court for acts such as bank robbery.

Federal law has precedence over state law and any state law that contradicts federal law would be deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge.  Overall areas of law not occupied by the federal government are reserved for the state.  Federal jurisdiction can be summed up in three major points:

  • When the defendant crosses state lines or the criminal conduct crosses state lines
    • The Federal Interstate Commerce Clause grants much authority for any crime that crosses state lines.
  • When the crime takes place on federal land or involves federal officers.
  • When immigration and customs violations are involved


Should I be checking for federal crimes as a part of my hiring process?

The answer is maybe.  Every industry is different and may require specific searches for background checks based on state or federal agency requirements/guidance.  If you are not governed by agency requirements then it is important to rely on your company’s employment/hiring policy.  Being consistent with both industry and company standards is critical.  If you don’t have a policy, now is a good time to develop one.