A federal crime is considered the most serious and heaviest form of a criminal offense against the constitution of America. This is because federal crimes are mainly putting the national interest at stake. Bank robbery, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, embezzlement, and the assassination of executive officials are all examples of federal crimes.
To elaborate more on the given definition, a crime becomes a federal offense if:
- It is a matter of national concern -- If a crime breaches the security of the country and strains the diplomatic relations with international countries, it will most likely be put in the federal category. Terrorist attacks from foreign extremists is a classic example of this rhetoric.
- It is an interstate crime -- Most crimes are prosecuted by state courts if they occur within the jurisdiction of that state. However, in some cases, a crime could involve two independent states. For instance, smuggling drugs from Florida to California is a federal crime. Even an internet scam involving victims from different states would also count. Any crime that happens beyond the boundaries of a single state can be considered a federal offense.
- It occurs on federal property -- A federal property is any property owned by the federal government, such as the Capitol, military camps, and government agency offices. If a crime transpires within the territory of federal property, it automatically becomes a federal crime.
- It involves federal officials, members, or employees -- Any crime committed against a government employee is a federal offense. A government employee could be politicians, district attorneys, lawmakers, and military personnel.
- It is specifically listed in the constitution as a federal offense -- There are over 500 federal violations specified in the constitution of the United States.
Federal Crimes vs. State Crimes
The main takeaway on the difference between federal crimes and state crimes is that the violation is committed against specific entities: the state government or the federal government.
You see, each state develops its own set of criminal laws based on the constitution -- which explains why a crime in one state may not be a crime in another. State legislators basically have the freedom to create whatever law as long as it is constitutional. However, these laws only apply to their respective jurisdictions.
On the other hand, federal criminal laws must be applied to every state; federal crimes are crimes against the entirety of USA -- not just in one state. Therefore, federal legislators do not necessarily have the same degree of freedom as opposed to their state-level counterparts.
Now, this begs the question: do federal crimes have harsher penalties than state crimes? The answer is simply "yes". This is especially true when it involves the same crime at a federal and state level. For instance, federal criminal law imposes a sentence of 25 years to life imprisonment for committing arson while most states carry only a few years in state prison.
Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help in Federal Cases?
Yes, criminal defense attorneys are more than capable of helping defendants with federal charges.
However, it is important to take note that state and federal crimes are prosecuted by different systems. The U.S. Attorney or the Assistant U.S. Attorney is responsible for prosecuting federal crimes while State or District Attorneys handle crimes committed at the state or local level.
What you need to do now is to find a criminal defense lawyer who can strategically represent you in both state and federal courts. Look for those that bring decades of experience to the table and have experienced handling federal cases. For free of charge assestement of your case feel feel to drop us a message or reach out at any of our our locations