What is a State Arrest?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 07 March 2020
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In the United States, a person may be arrested for violating either state or federal laws. A state arrest occurs when someone has violated laws of a particular state. Sometimes a crime violates both state and federal laws. When this occurs, certain rules may be applied in determining whether a person has a trial in state court or federal court.

The crimes that are considered state crimes may vary from state to state. In most states, however, crimes such as murder, rape, molestation of a minor, possessing drugs, and drunk driving are prosecuted as state crimes. Domestic violence, assault, robbery, theft, and shoplifting are usually considered state crimes as well. A person may also expect a state arrest after committing most crimes that are misdemeanors.

There are many criminal acts that are considered federal rather than state crimes. Among them are drug smuggling cases, terrorism, some cases of narcotic conspiracy, bank robbery, and some types of fraud and bribery. A criminal act is also considered a federal crime if it occurs on federal land or property.


In some cases, an arrest for an act that would normally be considered a state crime becomes a federal case. For example, if a person sells illegal drugs in his state, he can expect state arrest and prosecution. If he buys drugs in one state and then sells them in another state, however, this act is considered a federal crime and is subject to federal prosecution. Likewise, if a person commits a state crime and then flees to a different state, that is considered a federal matter as well.

Typically, a person who is arrested will have an idea of whether his crime will be prosecuted by the state or in federal court. When a person is arrested by federal authorities, he is usually taken to a federal detention center. This means the case will most likely be tried in federal court. If he is arrested by state or local authorities, he will usually be taken to a county or local jail. Sometimes criminals are transferred to federal custody after arrest, however.

After a state arrest, an accused criminal's picture is taken, and he is fingerprinted. He is also allowed to make one phone call. Bail in a state arrest case is usually set based on the state’s bail schedule, which specifies the amount of bail required for specific crimes. The amount of bail set in a particular case may depend on a number of factors, however. For example, a person may have a higher bail amount if he has a prior criminal record, is not a United States citizen, or is on parole or probation.

The person accused of a state crime can choose to pay his bail or have someone else pay it. If he posts bail, he can leave jail, showing up in court when it's time for his trial. If the bail is too high, he can stay in jail and ask the court to reduce it once he appears before a judge or magistrate. If the court refuses, the criminal stays in jail while awaiting his trial.



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