Understanding Federalism and Criminal Law
In criminal law jurisdiction and locale can make a huge difference in the level of crime you are charged with and the penalties associated therein. The United States of America was built upon the concept of federalism, wherein each individual state had sovereignty. States were designated as the caregiver of criminal laws and budget. Over the years, the federal government has asserted more and more power over states, and even developed its own criminal system. As it stands, an individual can be charged for a crime such as drug trafficking at both the state and the federal level. The penalties, however, will be different. What is true at the state and federal level, is likewise true when comparing regional statutes and penalties. For example, the state will have drunk driving laws, but each county, city, or municipality will have different statutes or even penalties associated with it. New York City local statutes prevent citizens from purchasing mace, whereas 15 miles out it is legal to own and carry it.
Obviously these discrepencies can make it difficult for visitors of an area or someone who has recently moved to that area to be able to keep track of the legislation and stay in accordance with the law. This becomes painfully obvious when travellers coming from the southern United States where gun laws are less strict attempt to drive up the coast and become victim to the capricity in law. What is completely legal to own and transport in Virginia can literally get you a sentence of 5 years in prison in the Empire State.+
In addition to statutes and criminal codes, there is also the mood or tempo of the courts who will be hearing your case. Some counties and their representatives are tougher on certain types of crime than another. A DUI in the Bronx would produce one result or offer whereas in Queens or Nassau you’d be less likely to get the same first offer due to the community stance on drunk driving.
It becomes difficult for attorneys to provide sufficient answers to the families of the accused when it comes to why their son or daughter just received a B Felony for criminal sales or why a military veteran is looking at criminal charges for having his weapon in his car as he was driving across another state to get home for Thanksgiving. The laws and rules seem fickle to the average person, and truth be known to the average attorney, as well.
There are times when many of us question the system, and at these times it is a healthy practice to understand why the framers of our Constitution set it up this way. This system allows individuals to move to areas that align with their values or shape their area in this way. Someone who wishes to own an AR-15 can move to Texas or Virginia. Someone who doesn’t want these types of weapons in their community can move to New York or Massachusetts.
Understanding the laws in your region or the region you are staying in is as simple as checking an online law library. This is advisable for anyone and everyone who is considering a move to another state or county or even attempting a drive across country.
Any type of criminal charge usually leaves the accused frightened, stressed, and almost too depressed to function. These swirling emotions oftentimes result in a dangerous state of denial. Criminal cases need to start immediately so that the most positive resolution can be created from the situation.