Federal and State Prosecution in Virginia

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by | December 8, 2021

Can I be prosecuted in both State and Federal Court in Virginia?

Virginia is uniquely located right near the nation’s capital, and is home a to a great amount of federal land, agencies, and property. And federal prosecution does not require that you actually crossed state lines or engaged in any criminal behavior on federal property. Because of these two facts, in some cases, the possibility of being charged in state court and federal court for basically the same offense is a real concern.

What about Double Jeopardy?

While the Constitution’s guarantee that no person “be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…” seems like it would prohibit being charged for the same conduct in state and federal court – it does not. Under the “Dual Sovereignty Doctrine” the United States Supreme Court has held that a person can be charged, tried, and convicted in both state and federal court for the same conduct. This is because the state and the federal government are separate “sovereigns” and because prosecution in each is actually a prosecution under separate laws.

What does this mean for me?

This plays out in several different ways

First, you may be fully prosecuted in both state and federal court, though maybe for different crimes. For instance, you may be tried in state court for shooting someone, and also tried in federal court for violating federal gun laws.

Second, state and federal prosecutors may refer cases to each other in the course of their investigations. This goes both ways. If you are being prosecuted in state court, they may find information that they share with federal agencies who can then prosecute you separately. Conversely, federal prosecutors may find that you committed state offenses that are outside of their jurisdiction, and refer those to the local prosecutor.

Other times, a state prosecution may be dismissed so that the federal prosecutors can take over.

These are all issues that your defense lawyer should be aware of, and protect against. Our attorneys are experience in both Virginia state court and Virginia federal court, as well as cases that result in dual-prosecutions. Defending these cases requires a high level of care and attention to best protect your interests.

Hire Virginia Attorneys Experienced in State and Federal Court

Our Client-Focused Criminal Defense Team is experienced in Virginia courts in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, as well as the federal Eastern District of Virginia. Contact us to learn how we can help you.