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How Federal Laws Can Conflict with State Laws

 Posted on June 21, 2019 in Criminal Law

How Federal Laws Can Conflict with State LawsIllinois abolished the death penalty as a punishment in 2011, largely due to alarming research showing that people have been wrongly convicted for violent crimes. Does this mean that an Illinois resident who commits a crime in Illinois could never face the death penalty? Only if the case is tried at the state level. Federal law still allows the death penalty, which is just one example of how federal and state laws can contradict each other in important ways.

Federal Crimes

Federal and state laws exist simultaneously and can both apply, depending on the details of a case. State prosecutors are the ones to bring criminal charges against a defendant in most cases, but federal prosecutors may have jurisdiction over a case if:

  • The alleged crime took place on federal property or involved a federal official;
  • The alleged criminal activity crossed state lines; or
  • The alleged crime involved immigration or customs violations.

You can be charged with both a state and a federal crime for the same alleged offense, but double jeopardy rules prevent you from being convicted for both. When state and federal laws contradict each other, jurisdiction can become an important issue for a defendant.

Death Penalty

There is an ongoing criminal trial involving an Illinois man who is accused of kidnapping and murdering a visiting Chinese college student. Though the alleged crime is supposed to have taken place in Illinois, the case is being heard in the U.S. District Court Central District of Illinois. Federal prosecutors have the option of seeking the death penalty in the case. However, federal murder trials involving the death penalty are rare. The last federal execution took place in 2003.

Recreational Marijuana

Illinois residents are more likely to experience the difference between federal and state laws when the state legalizes recreational marijuana at the start of 2020. It is illegal under federal law to possess marijuana. Being caught transporting marijuana across state lines will still be a federal crime, even if a state bordering Illinois also decides to legalize recreational marijuana. Possessing marijuana on federally owned land in Illinois will also be a crime.

Contact a DuPage County Criminal Defense Attorney

Whether facing state or federal charges, you need an experienced attorney to defend you. A Wheaton, Illinois, criminal defense lawyer at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can help you defeat the charge against you or minimize your punishment. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-260-9647.


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