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Why Do Federal Criminal Investigations Take Longer Than State Investigations?



When it comes to these federal cases, there’s a number of different factors that are influencing why they are taking so long for the government to investigate a case and finally file that case. I get clients that come in all the time and say, this happened a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, even five years ago, why are they just coming now? It’s a number of different factors.

One, they have a lot of investigations going on, so sometimes it takes them some time to do what they feel they need to do in order to criminally prosecute somebody at the federal level.

Two, usually federal cases are more sophisticated and involve more moving parts than state cases and that’s why the federal cases are taking longer to file. The feds don’t just file any case. Most of the cases that are filed across the country and in various states are filed by the Superior Courts of the jurisdiction where they occur in. In order for the feds to get involved, there’s certain criteria that they have that need to be met in order for them to even deal with the case. In other words, there are a lot of cases that are filed federally that can also be filed at the state level, but for some reason, the feds are deciding to take it.

A lot of the big narcotic cases involving wiretaps and moving drugs from state-to-state, or even internationally, are going to be handled by the feds because they’ve got the manpower. They’ve got the resources. They’ve got the technology and sophistication to crack some of these cases — track some of these drug dealers. Whereas, the states just simply do not have the funding or the manpower to deal with some of these more sophisticated narcotics cases as an example.

There’s a whole bunch of other examples where the feds will get involved, but the bottom line is, that the feds don’t like to file a case unless they’ve got the case all sealed up; whereas, the state does not always have the luxury to get all of the cases they file sealed up. A lot of them are, but sometimes it’s one of those things in my opinion where, if there’s smoke, there’s fire, and then the state will file the case and then in a percentage of those cases — that smoke was meaningless and they shouldn’t have filed the case — and they should have dug deeper. That’s where a good criminal defense attorney comes in to show them some of the issues that they have with their case and why they shouldn’t have filed it.

So, the feds on the other hand, since they have the resources, are going to take their time, investigate it and basically present an air-tight case to the prosecutors — at least that’s what they think they presented — and they don’t mind taking their time. As long as there’s not some imminent danger to the public or to some individual, the feds will take their time. They don’t care — months or years — to make sure that they catch all the people that are involved — at least as many as they can — and that they do a thorough investigation and get all the information necessary to try to make it easy for the prosecutors so the defense attorneys don’t have much to work with.

Now, there are examples where they just don’t have any choice because they’re catching people and they’ve got something that looks criminal — they have to do something about it. So, they do and then it turns out it wasn’t exactly what they thought it was.

Another big difference between the state and the feds is that the feds are a lot more likely to try and get those people that they arrest to cooperate to get other people — either of equal footing to them in a crime or go up the ladder and find other more culpable criminals; whereas, the state again is just not set-up for that. They don’t have the time for it and even though they do it once in a while, in my view — and I’ve been doing this for twenty-five years — it’s a rare thing that the state is looking to catch other people by way of using criminal defendants. They just don’t have the set-up for it.

So, it’s not surprising if you’re involved in a federal case and it’s taking a long time to investigate it. One area where I don’t see the feds just arresting people just off the top just because they find them with drugs, for example, is in these sophisticated drug trafficking rings. A lot of times as part of them building the case up, they’re going to track some drugs to be able to show that the people that are talking on the wiretap that they’re listening to are actually talking about drugs — grab the drugs, and then arrest the people and see if they can get statements from them who are moving the drugs. And then a lot of times they won’t file the case against that person because they know they’re going to have to turn over whatever work they have on the case to the attorney for those people and then everybody else that’s involved in that investigation is going to find out about what’s going on and they don’t want that to happen because they’re not ready to arrest everybody yet, number one, and number two, a lot of times they’re just not ready to deal with the case because they’re still in the process of working on it. So, they’ll just let the person go. They may come back and get them later when they indict everybody else, or not. It depends on the circumstances, that person’s involvement.

But eventually, especially in these big drug cases, they’re going to file the case. It’s just a matter of them getting all their ducks in a row. So hopefully, that gives you some idea of why these federal investigations will take longer than the state investigations. If you have either a federal or a state investigation, we can certainly help you with it. Give me a call, we’ll sit down, we’ll go over everything and put the pieces in place to get this thing moving in the right direction.

For more information on Federal & State Criminal Investigations, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 374-3952 today.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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