Double Proscution

The federal government and the state government are two different legal entities with their own laws independant of each other. As a practical matter, this means that you can be prosecuted by the state and federal government at the same time.This concept is known as “dual soverignty”. So, the Feds can indict you for the same offense regardless if you’ve pled guilty, been found not guilty or had the state dismiss a similar state charge.  Now, not every state violation constitutes a federal crime. The federal government has a more limited jurisdiction than states and, typically is required to show some interstate or commcerical interest.  The most common state crimes prosecuted by the feds are drug crimes, gun crimes and healthcare fraud.

USSG 5G1.3

So what happens if you are convicted in bith state and federal court for the same offense?  Well, all is not lost.  The United States Sentencing Guidelines actually takes this scenario into account when crafting a recommended penalty. According to USSG 5G1.3 a federal sentence is to run concurrent to any sentence imposed in another jurisdiction whenever the underlying conduct for that offense would be considered “relevant conduct” in federal court.

Petite Policy

Fortunately, the federal government is not obligated to prosecute every state case that also constitutes a federal crime. In fact, there is a general Department of Justice Policy prohibiting multiple prosecutions for the same offense.  This policy is called the Petite policy and will allow dual prosecution when 3 criterion are met: 1) the matter involves a substantial federal interest, 2) the prior prosecution left that interest unvindicated and 3) the conduct must invovle a federal offense for which a conviction is proable based upon the perceived admissible evidence.  As a practical matter, this means the feds are likely to intervene whenever they think someone “caught a break” in state court.

Regrettably, there isn’t a similar state provision in Louiana. Meaning, Louisiana can still come after you despite a federal conviction for a crime that also constitutes a state crime. And, making matters worse, a Louisiana judge is not obligated to impose a concurrent sentence.

In closing, if you think they feds have an interest in your state case, your attorney is to become proactive and obtain a commitment from one jurisdiction to defer to the other.

André Bélanger, a graduate of Loyola University, is a highly-respected criminal defense attorney serving the people of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and surrounding areas of Ascension Parish and New Orleans, for one of Baton Rouge’s top-25 law firms. In his 18 years of practicing law, Mr. Bélanger has handled thousands of criminal cases at both the pre-trial and trial stage, including approximately 200 trials. This trial experience includes homicide defense and prosecution, large drug conspiracies and fraud cases making Bélanger one of the few attorneys capable of handling even the largest, most complex federal cases. Having spent years devoted to developing a top-tier regional law practice for federal court and state court litigation, Mr. Bélanger is admitted to practicing law in all federal courts in both Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, the United States Supreme Court and the U. S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.