When it comes to a federal crime in the United States, it is defined as one that is illegal under federal criminal law, rather than under state criminal law. There are three levels of law in the United States: federal, state, and local. It is most common to be charged under state criminal law, but in cases of a crime that is illegal in U.S. federal legislation, it is called a federal crime.
If you are facing a federal criminal charge, it’s imperative that you hire an experienced and qualified attorney to help you navigate through the complexities of the federal court system.
What Happens During A Federal Criminal Charge
A federal crime is a severe crime that is not to be taken lightly. During a federal crime investigation, federal law enforcement agencies can easily get involved. They will collect and provide information to the United States Attorneys in the respective district.
These agencies can include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the United States Secret Service (USSS), the Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In some cases, only one federal law enforcement agency gets involved in the investigation. In other cases, multiple agencies are involved. Most times, agencies require a search warrant, and if there is enough evidence to make an arrest, that may be done first. Other times, you could be under surveillance for months and even years by one or more federal, state and/or local law enforcement agencies, coordinated by the federal government in a way that violates your Constitutional rights.
Federal investigators can obtain court orders and subpoenas that allow them to do everything from review your bank records and to gather private social media records with the help of prosecutors, once a federal investigation has begun. They can “trap and trace” and track your location via your cell phone, listen to calls, and even read your text messages.
When it comes to prosecution, many federal crimes can be prosecuted at either the state or the federal level, because they are illegal at both levels. Some federal charges, including those that occur on federal property or on Native American reservations, are only illegal on a federal level. It is more common to be prosecuted at the state level for federal crimes against a person or property, like cases of murder, rape, assault, theft, and robbery. Each state has district courts where trials for federal cases are held.
Summary – In the event of a federal crime, an investigation can be done by federal enforcement agencies, and state district courts hold most federal cases.
Common Types Of Federal Criminal Charges
Federal criminal charges are far and wide, and there are hundreds of categories that violations fall under. They are listed under Title 18 of the United States Code, as well as in other areas. Here is a list of common federal crimes:
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Money laundering
- Weapons charges
- Drug/narcotics trafficking and distribution
- White collar crimes
- Internet crimes
- Child pornography
- Credit card fraud
- Identity theft
- Tax evasion
- Drug abuse violations
- Immigration offenses
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Attempting to commit murder/manslaughter
- Motor vehicle theft
- Sexual assault
- Use of weapons of mass destruction
Summary – There are many federal crimes, including hundreds of categories that violations fall under, and most are listed under Title 18 of the United States Code.
How The Federal Criminal Process Works
Federal criminal charges are very serious, and unlike typical state criminal charges that are clearly defined with punishment ranges that are readily ascertainable, the federal system is complex, convoluted, and confusing. The federal criminal process can be daunting if you don’t have the right representation by your side throughout the way. The steps of the federal criminal process include:
- Initial hearing
- Plea bargaining
- Preliminary hearing (if going to trial)
- Pre-trial motions
- Post-trial motions
More often than not, people who commit federal crimes plead guilty and don’t even go to trial. They typically receive a plea bargain, which results in leniency, a reduced charge or a reduced sentence. The judge will sentence the person using federal sentencing guidelines, which consider the crime, the level of offense, and the criminal history of the defendant.
Sentences for federal crimes vary greatly. Defendants may find themselves paying a fine or restitution to the victim(s) of the crime, and in other cases, probation or life without parole may be the sentence. In some drug cases, drug testing and mandatory counseling are given.
Summary – The federal criminal process is complex, and most people plead guilty to avoid trial, receiving a wide range of sentences.
Contact Us To Get Your Federal Charge Case In The Right Hands
To navigate your case properly, you’ll need the assistance of an experienced federal charge lawyer, such as Vinas & Graham, PLLC. Whether this is your first federal charge or you have a history of criminal charges, we will be your guiding light throughout the process and help you get the best outcome for your case possible. As former prosecutors, Vinas & Graham helps prepare your defense and protect your rights with the mindset of the prosecution. We will put our knowledge, skills, and experience to use for you in your case.
Want to find out how we can help you in your federal charge case? We’d love to talk with you today. Feel free to contact us at (713) 229-9992 to discuss your situation with our experienced team and schedule a free consultation at your convenience. We look forward to getting to know you and your case, so that we can find out the best path and solution together.
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