In the United States, we have state-level crimes and federal crimes. State legislatures create state laws, whereas Congress creates federal laws. So, if someone were to violate a state law, they would be said to have committed a state crime. If someone violates a federal law, he or she commits a federal crime.
Sometimes, someone commits a crime that is criminalized under both state and federal law. Drug trafficking and identity theft are both illegal under state and federal law. In this situation, the state and federal prosecutors will decide whether to prosecute the case in state or federal court.
However, the majority of crimes are criminalized under state law. This means that most criminal cases in the U.S. are prosecuted in the state courts. As a general rule, if a crime is illegal under both state and federal law, the penalties for the federal version of the crime are stiffer than the state-level version.
Federal Criminal Justice Process
A lot of people are unfamiliar with the federal criminal justice system. This is often because their knowledge is limited to what they’ve seen depicted by Hollywood, which is often wrong, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Suppose someone violates a federal law and it’s reported to the federal authorities by a local law enforcement agency, a victim or a witness. Upon receiving the report, a federal law enforcement agency will begin an investigation to determine if the suspect committed a federal crime.
Remember, not every crime is a “federal offense.” For example, it’s illegal to commit murder in all 50 states, but it’s not a federal crime unless the suspect murdered a federal official while he or she was on duty. Robbery is another example. It’s illegal in all 50 states, but it’s not a federal offense unless the suspect robbed a federally-insured bank. A federal agency, such as the FBI or the Secret Service will only investigate a crime if they think the suspect violated a federal law.
In the case of a white-collar crime, FBI agents usually need to gather documentation from the suspects and the alleged victims while they conduct their investigation. If the suspect is convicted of a federal crime, he or she will be incarcerated in a federal prison as opposed to a state prison, which is reserved for people who violate state-level crimes, such as assault, rape, auto theft, and murder.
Facing federal charges in Plano or Dallas? Contact The Zendeh Del Law Firm, PLLC at (888) 493-6529 for immediate assistance.