In the United States, most criminal prosecutions are handled within state jurisdictions, meaning the defendant has violated the law and is subsequently tried in a state court. However, some crimes may also be subject to federal criminal laws, which are passed by Congress and designed to address national issues. Furthermore, depending on the severity of the crime, illegal actions that might normally be tried in a state court can become federal crimes. Unfortunately, one of the most confusing aspects of the United States justice system is determining what kind of charge a defendant will face. Here is how criminal charges become federal.
- Federal Property: In the majority of criminal cases, jurisdiction will fall to the city, county, or state where a crime was committed. But what about when a crime is committed on federal property such as in a national park or federally owned building? Federal statutes apply to crimes committed on land or in buildings that are administered by the federal government. Although criminal proceedings are often handled by the state, federal criminal code includes provisions for many offenses that are typically handled at the state level. Therefore, both violent and non-violent crimes committed in a national park, Native American reservation, or in federal courthouses, or prisons, are all subject to federal charges.
- Crimes against the government: Most crimes are committed against a particular person, group of people, or piece of property. However, certain types of crimes are considered to have a much broader impact and are therefore considered to be crimes against the government. For example, counterfeiting American currency is considered a crime against the government because it poses a direct threat to the U.S. economy. Other criminal acts that carry federal charges include treason, voter intimidation, and acts of terrorism. Each of these examples is thought of as a crime against broadly defined “federal interests.”
- Depending on the severity of a crime, illegal actions that would normally be prosecuted at the state level could end up in federal courts. Aggravating factors, such as repeat offenses or amount of harm caused to the victim of a crime, can lead to more severe charges. Also, drug trafficking across state lines and/or the possession of large quantities of controlled substances could subject you to federal prosecution.By increasing the severity of a crime the case may be taken to federal court and carry a harsher sentence in federal prison.
Consult with an experienced Wyoming defense attorney
When facing a charge for a federal crime, it is important to have a criminal defense attorney you know and trust at your side. At Davis & Cannon LLP, our experienced criminal defense attorney are ready to help you navigate the legal system and secure the best outcome for you and your case. For a free and confidential consultation call us today at (307) 672-7491 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.