When Can You Be Charged with a Federal Crime?
Most state-level crimes have federal counterparts, such as RICO charges. However, a crime can be charged at the federal level if the offense directly violates federal law or it occurs across state lines. Federal charges can also be issued for crimes allegedly occurring on federal property, investigated by federal agents, or discovered through an informant.
Some offenses may be charged on either the state or federal level. In these cases, the prosecution usually decides how the charges should be filed and where the case is heard. If a crime can be charged on the federal level, it often is as federal charges carry harsher penalties than those at the state level.
Common Federal-Level Crimes
Federal charges are often issued by government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Drug and Weapons Crimes
- Drug possession, manufacturing, and trafficking – these are common federal charges since they often involve moving illegal drugs across state lines or between countries. High quantities of drugs and evidence of manufacturing can also elevate the charges.
- Illegal possession of a firearm – some convictions, such as felony convictions, make it illegal to own a firearm. Having a gun when your record outlaws it can have serious consequences.
- Weapons trafficking – As with drug trafficking, federal agencies take strong measures to crack down on the movement of arms between states and countries.
Sex Crimes and Violent Crimes
Sex crimes can carry severe penalties that extend beyond a prison sentence. Being required to register as a sex offender can permanently affect your reputation and your ability to find employment and housing. For example, possessing, creating, or distributing child pornography is frequently a federal offense.