I am a scholar of criminal law. It’s important to recognize that criminal law provides no clear answer how to settle that question.
Nothing in the U.S. Constitution or federal law dictates that, say, federal criminal cases get priority over state cases, or that prosecutions proceed in the order in which indictments are issued.
The solution ordinarily is that the various prosecutors will negotiate and decide among themselves which case should proceed first. Often, the one that involves the most serious charges gets priority, although the availability of key witnesses or evidence could play a role.
There are a few cases to look to as reference for state charges competing with federal ones.
After neo-Nazi James Fields drove his car into a group of protesters at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, killing one person and injuring others, he was charged with crimes in both federal and state courts.
The state homicide trial went first. Then, Fields pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges after the state conviction and received two life sentences for his crime from both the state and federal charges.
By contrast, “D.C. Sniper” John Allen Muhammad was finally apprehended at a highway rest stop in Maryland in 2002, after a deadly series of sniper shootings in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, which killed 10 people and injured three.
In Trump’s case, his federal charges – which were not unsealed as of June 8 – are likely to carry longer potential sentences than the state offenses.
The felonies he is facing in New York are white-collar crimes and may not result in any prison time, legal experts have said.