Crimes in the United States are classified as either federal or state offenses. While the majority of crimes committed falls into the state category, there are a number of federal crimes committed every year. When a crime is classified as a federal offense, it can carry far greater consequences than if it was tried in state courts. Here is an overview of laws regarding federal crimes crime and how they are classified and prosecuted in the courts.
What Constitutes a Federal Crime
Although state and federal laws can sometimes overlap, a crime is considered a federal offense if it violates United States federal legislation. Generally, this includes crimes that cross state lines or that occur on U.S. Federal property. A federal crime can also be charged when a person commits an act that compromises national security.
Types of Federal Crimes
According to the Wall Street Journal, there are approximately 4,500 crimes that can be prosecuted in the federal courts, and these numbers are rising every day. Among the most common types of federal crimes are drug-trafficking, identity thefts and mail fraud. Any acts committed on federal land, such as the removal of historical artifacts or hunting protected wildlife, is also considered a federal crime.
Laws Governing Federal Crimes
Federal laws are established to handle serious instances of theft and violent acts on a national level. When a federal crime is suspected, it is investigated by an appropriate federal agency such as the FBI or Secret Security. Then, it is prosecuted in the United States Attorney’s Office that is located in the primary area where the crime has been committed. In addition to federal legislation concerning what constitutes a crime, there are also statutes that govern the sentencing process. These can be used by a judge as guidelines to follow during sentencing.
Due to the serious nature of a federal crime, those who have been charged will need to utilize the services of an attorney to navigate through the complicated federal judiciary system. Although some crimes, such as kidnapping and drug-trafficking, are obvious federal offenses, others may come as a surprise to those who are prosecuted. Being aware of the federal laws that govern the United States is the most effective way to avoid being charged with a serious crime.