Federal crimes are often more serious than state crimes and can have a larger impact on your future. However, something that may have been a state-level crime if committed within only Pennsylvania can become a federal crime if you cross state lines while doing so.
For instance, stalking is a federal crime if you leave one state and enter another to do so. Maybe your ex has a restraining order against you and moved to another state. If you follow them over the Pennsylvania state line and are then arrested for stalking, it’s now a federal matter or an interstate crime.
Another example is if you buy marijuana in a state where it is legal and then bring it to Pennsylvania. While Pennsylvania law does not allow for the possession of recreational marijuana, states like Michigan do allow it. Still, buying it there and bringing it into Pennsylvania may not just be a crime here, where the state law makes it illegal, but at the federal level, where recreational use is also still illegal — no matter what other states may have decided.
Does this always happen?
There are exceptions to every rule, so it’s worth noting that every single case that crosses state lines won’t become a federal case automatically. But this is a general rule that is often used, so you need to know that traveling while in the commission of an illegal act — even accidentally — may mean you face more serious charges.
What will this mean for your future?
One of the biggest things you need to think about with a federal crime is what it means for you moving forward. Even after jail time is up and fines are paid, will you have to register on a list? Will you find it harder to rent an apartment or get a home loan? Will your federal record show up on background checks and prevent you from getting a job? These are all important questions to ask.
If you already facing charges, it is also important to consider the legal defense options at your disposal.