In this essay, I will be exploring the differences between state and federal jurisdiction in criminal prosecutions of murder with respect to crimes against persons. In the United States, both the states and the federal government have authority to prosecute criminal offenses. The federal government and each state have its own, court system, criminal statutes, prosecutors, and police agencies. Even if a particular crime will be prosecuted by a state or by the federal government will depend several factors.
The crimes that are mostly prosecuted by the federal government include drug trafficking offenses, organized crime, and financial crimes, large scale frauds and crimes in which there is a special federal interest such as crimes against federal officials, and frauds against the United States. The states prosecute most crimes against the person, such as murders and assaults, and many crimes against property, such as robberies and thefts. States prosecute a far greater number of crimes than does the federal government.
While the states have broad authority to prosecute many types of crimes, they may investigate and prosecute only criminal acts committed within their boundaries. The power of the federal government, however, extends throughout the United States. Therefore, the federal government is often better able to investigate and prosecute sophisticated and large-scale criminal activity. Although there are differences in criminal procedure among the states and between the states and the federal government, certain core principles of United States criminal law and practice apply equally to all state and federal investigations and prosecutions.
First, it is true throughout the United States that the investigation and prosecution of crime is the responsibility of the executive branch of government. Prosecutors, investigating agents, and police officers are members of the executive branch, not the judicial branch. In the United States, there is no concept of an investigating judge, as is found in a civil system. Therefore, the role of judges in the investigation of criminal offenses is limited.
However, certain actions during an investigation can be taken only upon the authorization of a judge. Only a judge may issue a warrant to search for and seize evidence of crimes; only a judge may order the recording of telephone conversations; only a judge may take action to enforce a subpoena (an order that a witness give testimony or produce documents or other evidence in his or her possession under penalty of incarceration for refusal); and, except in limited circumstances, only a judge may issue a warrant for the arrest of an accused person. 3] Whenever a prosecutor (or, in some instances, a police officer) determines that such a judicial act is needed in an investigation, he or she must make a formal request to the court and present facts or evidence that are legally sufficient to support the action requested. A judge will issue the warrant or order requested only if he or she determines that there is a sufficient factual basis for it.
For example, in the case of a request for a search warrant, the court must determine that the evidence presented is sufficient to establish probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed and that evidence of that offense may be found at a specific place to be searched.