Kurtz & Blum, PLLC - Criminal Justice Attorney

what is considered a federal crime?

What Makes a Crime a Federal Offense?

federal crime

In some situations, there is federal jurisdiction that gives federal prosecutors the right to prosecute the case. In other situations, the offense may be considered both a state and federal crime. Federal prosecutors may choose when they want to step in, take a case over from the state, and prosecute it.

In some cases, state and federal prosecutors can simultaneously prosecute the case without double jeopardy arising because the offense is considered a different crime in different jurisdictions.
federal crimeState Crime
vs.
federal crimeFederal Crime
Jurisdiction

Most crimes fall under state law and jurisdiction.
However, federal jurisdiction applies when the crime:

federal crime Occurs on federal land
federal crime Involves federal officers
federal crime Involves criminal conduct or a defendant who crosses state lines
federal crime
federal crime Involves immigration or customs violations
federal crime Involves fraud, deception, or misrepresentation to the federal government or a federal agency
federal crime Involves interstate commerce
federal crime Is classified as a federal crime, such as acts of terrorism or mail fraud
federal crime Occurs on federal land
federal crime Involves federal officers
federal crime Involves criminal conduct or a defendant who crosses state lines
federal crime Involves interstate commerce
federal crime Is classified as a federal crime, such as acts of terrorism or mail fraud
federal crime Involves immigration or customs violations
federal crime Involves fraud, deception, or misrepresentation to the federal government or a federal agency
Government Agencies
The government agencies that investigate and prosecute state and federal crimes are often different.
goverment agency
State crimes may involve:
federal crime
Police departments
federal crime
Sheriffs’ offices
federal crime
District attorneys
federal crime
State police agencies
federal crime
In contrast, federal crimes may involve:
federal crime
Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
federal crime
Department of Justice (DOJ)
federal crime
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
federal crime
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
federal crime
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF)
federal crime
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
federal crime
U.S. Attorneys
federal crime
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
federal crime
A consequence of federal crime prosecution is that there are usually much more expansive resources available in these cases. Federal crimes are prosecuted under federal law, irrespective of where the crime was committed.
Procedural Differences
There are also differences in the procedures surrounding the prosecution of federal and state crimes, including:
federal crime
  • The Rules of Federal Criminal Procedure apply to federal cases while state rules of criminal procedure apply to state cases.
  • Federal judges are appointed for life by the president while state judges in North Carolina are elected for a short term.
  • Federal judges tend to handle far fewer cases so cases may be resolved faster.
  • Federal cases typically begin with a grand jury indictment while a state case usually begins after state charges are filed against the defendant.
Punishment
Another significant difference between state and federal courts is the potential punishment you can face. Federal sentencing guidelines apply to federal crimes. Federal penalties are usually much longer than state penalties for similar offenses, especially drug crimes. If convicted, you will go to federal prison instead of state prison.
federal crime
In North Carolina, crimes are divided into three categories:
federal crime
Infractions
federal crime
Misdemeanors
federal crime
Felonies
These are established by state law and are subject to the penalties described in these laws.