Criminal offenses are divided into two basic types in the United States: State and Federal Crimes. Criminal offenses are handled on both state and federal level but federal crimes are those which are criminalized by the U.S. Federal Legislation. Federal crimes comprise of a variety of serious offenses that result in strict charges. According to the laws established by the Congress, the persecution guidelines are forwarded by the United States Attorney in each federal judicial district. State criminal offenses are dealt by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Agency, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Some offenses do not cause so much of a chaos. For example, a DUI offense does not impact more than a few people but some offenses cause a national or even an international effect. Federal crimes are those offenses which have an enormous impact on the country and its peace. Federal crimes are usually so impactful that they affect more than a single state. Kidnapping across the states, drug trafficking across the state, internet child pornography, tax fraud and mail fraud, are a few types of federal criminal offenses.
In case of the occurrence of a federal crime, the local law bodies and the federal agencies work in collaboration to thoroughly investigate the case. These two types of law enforcement agencies have access to a wide range of resources of information/evidence that can be used against the convict. Two bodies working on a single type of case makes it harder for the defendant to find a loophole and escape the charges.
Most offenses that affect the military body of the United States, such as impersonating a military officer, stealing military property, impeding or obstructing a military activity, selling classified information, drunk driving on a military base are few of the crimes against the military which result in penal jurisdiction by the federal law.
Federal crimes in relation to the post office also fall in this category. For example, fraudulent funds solicitation, mailing dangerous substances or drugs, sending ransom note via mail, vandalizing U.S. mail, threatening a mail worker, stealing postal money orders and destroying the post office property, to name a few, can lead to serious penalty as a result of the action of federal court.
Crimes in relation to the IRA are also federal crimes, for example, tax fraud, tax evasion or any crime involving federal benefits will be a federal crime. Fraudulently receiving welfare benefits, receiving disaster relief funds based on exaggeration, fraudulently receiving social security checks, faking a disability to get long term disability benefits, and stealing or forging a treasury check also leads to federal court and strictest penalties.
The Federal Interstate Commerce Clause gives the federal agencies the jurisdiction of these crimes which in turn gives them the power to govern interstate business issues such as mail, travel, telecommunication etc. which increases the penalties of crimes against these agencies. Some local crimes may take the form of a federal crime, for example, graffiti is a local crime but graffiti on a post office wall or military property would make it a federal crime and hence punitive charges. Similarly, having intercourse with a minor is a state crime but if the minor is taken to another state, it becomes a federal issue. Even DUI can turn into a federal crime if one drives into military property under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If someone crosses the state line while drunk driving, the DUI charges will not be according to the federal law. Instead, the local government will be responsible to solve the problem. Similarly, holding arms against military personnel, post office staff etc. could be a federal crime but if the defendant is not threatening the people and is still under the influence, the charges will not be federal but according to the state law.
Serious crimes bring serious consequences for the offenders. If proven, the crime can cost the defendant thousands of dollars fine, jail time, and victim restitution. Any crime against any federal agency automatically becomes a federal crime. People should be aware of the difference between these two types of criminal offenses as a conviction for a federal crime might have drastic short-term and long-term effects on ones life. Some federal agencies which may take the defendant to the federal court are Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, Department of Treasury, Labor Department, the F.C.C., Securities and Exchange Commission and Drug Enforcement Administration. The federal agency will deal with the case in collaboration with the state law enforcement agencies.
Since the Federal Government and the State Government are independent of each other, the charges become two-fold. The idea of double charges as a spoliation of the basic rights of the convict does not apply here as the charges are administered by two sovereign and independent governments. The individual receives double punishment as he violates both the state and the federal law. The punishment is also highly punitive as a federal crime brings the whole country into jeopardy.
No matter how strict the federal law, the charges can still be lowered depending upon the situation and nature of the crime. A federal crime is only to be dealt by a federal attorney with reliable expertise. Time is of importance especially when one is facing federal criminal charges but it is equally important to find a suitable lawyer; one should hire an attorney who has dealt with people convicted with similar charges in the past. The defendant should keep every document (bail papers, court orders etc.) ready before meeting with an attorney to save time and trouble. No document should be left out as unnecessary. Every detail of the incident should be discussed with the attorney who would help him/her to find loopholes to reduce the charges or to counter the federal attorney. It is also advisable to meet with a few attorneys before making a decision as a federal crime can have permanent effects on one’s security, career and peace of mind.
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