What Are Federal Charges?
Federal charges are offenses that violate United States federal laws. In most cases, these crimes are prosecuted by government agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Penalties for federal crimes are typically more severe than penalties for state crimes and can include jail time, prison time, and hefty fines.
In most cases, a crime becomes federal when a person crosses state lines or international borders during the crime itself. A crime may also be classified as a federal charge if it happened on federal property, was committed against a government employee, or was perpetrated against one of the branches of the government. All federal crimes are prosecuted in federal court, not state court. Federal crimes can include white-collar crimes, heinous sexual acts, and crimes committed on Indian reservations.
If you have been charged with a federal crime, seeking legal counsel is essential. Because federal courts are different than state courts, hiring a criminal defense lawyer with experience in navigating the federal system is crucial. Without a solid defense strategy, the federal government could seek maximum penalties for your charges, leading to years or even decades in jail.
What Are the Most Common Federal Crimes?
There are many different types of federal crimes that you could be charged with. Some of these crimes can also be state crimes but are elevated to the federal level in extreme circumstances. While the list of federal crimes is extensive, there are some general categories they can be grouped into.
The most common federal crimes include:
- White-collar crimes, including bankruptcy fraud, financial crimes, forgery, and identity theft
- Drug offenses, including drug trafficking, drug distribution, marijuana crimes, and drug smuggling
- Sex crimes, including child sexual abuse, child exploitation, and federal prostitution charges
- Immigration offenses, including citizenship fraud, smuggling illegal aliens, and naturalization fraud
- Public corruption, including bribery of a public official, election law violations, offering a gratuity to a public official, and campaign finance violations
- Violent crimes, including arson, kidnapping, murder, assault, burglary, and threatening communications
- Offenses involving federal prisons, including contraband in prison and escape from prison
Other federal charges may include failure to appear in court, aiding and abetting, civil rights violations, and perjury charges. The penalties you face for federal charges depend on the severity of the charge and its nature. In general, sexual and violent crimes are punished more harshly than non-violet, non-sexual crimes. However, some judges will use white-collar offenses or other non-violent crimes to make an example out of an individual, handing out the maximum punishment.
What Are State Charges?
State charges are enforced by the state law enforcement, meaning the state has jurisdiction. State crimes can be found in your state’s penal code and often include crimes like homicide, child abuse, theft, DUI, rape, and minor drug crimes. State charges are prosecuted in state court using a state judge. While state charges are often less severe than federal charges, they can still carry severe penalties, including life in prison.
State lawmakers have the power to make and regulate their own laws. States use their own code to determine how state violations are prosecuted and how convicted criminals are punished. State charges are more common than federal charges, although both require assistance from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
How Are Federal Offenses Charged?
Federal crimes are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies. Many agencies investigate federal crimes, but some are more common than others.
The most common federal law enforcement agencies include:
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
In most federal cases, the criminal process begins when a federal agency launches a criminal investigation. If state law enforcement learns of the crime before federal agencies do, state law enforcement can call in federal agents for assistance. Federal agencies will work to gather evidence against the accused before making an arrest.
Once federal agents feel they have enough evidence to make a case, they will turn that evidence over to the United States Attorney’s Office. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will then file an indictment with the federal U.S. District Court to assign a judge and start the case proceedings. Accused criminals always have the right to a jury trial; however, many federal cases are resolved through plea bargains.
What Are Federal Courts?
The federal court system prosecutes all cases that have been proven to violate federal law. The federal court uses federal judges who follow federal sentencing guidelines to hand out penalties to those convicted. Federal criminal court cases follow the same standard procedure as state criminal court cases. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, and the government must prove to a judge or jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If an individual is convicted in federal court and sentenced to prison, they will likely serve that time in federal prison.
How Can I Defend Against Federal Charges?
Federal charges carry severe penalties like extended stays in prison and hefty fines. If you are facing federal charges, the best way to protect your freedom is by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. A lawyer who understands the federal court system can gather evidence in your defense to either negotiate a plea deal or defend you in court before a judge.
Our team at Cowboy Country Criminal Defense has years of experience helping clients like you defend themselves against federal punishments. Please don’t feel like you must go through this challenging process alone. Call our office today at 307-333-7884 for more information.