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What Makes Something a Federal Crime?

FBI agent looking at paperwork

All crimes are charged at the local, state, or federal level. If you have been accused of committing a federal crime, you have been accused of breaking a national law. These cases are incredibly serious and are handled differently than other offenses. Let’s go over a few reasons why you may be charged with a federal crime, and what you should do immediately after becoming aware of the case against you.

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Reasons to be Charged with a Federal Crime

Breaking Federal Law

While each state has unique laws, federal laws apply to every state in the country.

Examples of issues that are covered under federal law include:

  • Immigration
  • Social Security
  • Civil Rights
  • Federal Criminal Law

Federal criminal laws can fall under many categories: fraud crimes, drug crimes, violent crimes, and more. There are so many federal criminal laws, it is impossible for citizens to know them all. In general, federal criminal charges are reserved for the most severe offenses.

A good rule of thumb is that if a federal organization, like the FBI, DEA, or ATF is investigating the offense, it will likely result in federal charges being filed.

Crimes Crossing Borders

Even if the crime you commit is not a federal law violation, per se, you still may face federal charges depending on where the crime occurred. Any crime that occurs when crossing state lines can warrant federal charges. For example, traveling with drugs from Texas to New Mexico, or kidnapping a child and driving out of the state.

Additionally, even if the defendant doesn’t physically cross state borders, any crime that does can still be a federal offense. You may be wondering, how is that possible? One example of this would be a wire fraud crime that targets people around the country through the use of the internet. While the offender did not leave their home state, the crime was technically committed in other states around the country.

Defrauding a Federal Organization

If a federal organization is involved in the criminal offense, it will be considered a federal crime. The most common example of this is fraud against a government agency.
This includes:

  • Tax fraud
  • Medicare/Healthcare fraud
  • Social Security fraud
  • Counterfeiting money
  • Forging federal documents

Aggravated Offenses

If a crime was particularly heinous or violent, it might result in federal charges.
Examples include:

  • Aggravated assault/battery
  • Aggravated sexual abuse
  • Killing a federal officer
  • Child pornography
  • Assisting a prisoner escaping
  • Terrorism
  • Money laundering
  • Sex crimes against children

For an extended list of federal crimes, click here.

If You’re Charged with a Federal Crime

If you have recently been contacted by a federal organization regarding a crime or have been arrested and are facing charges, there are actions you should begin taking immediately. Federal crimes are not taken lightly, and in many cases, prosecutors will work on a case for weeks to months before the defendant is even aware they are suspected of a crime.

Contact an Attorney

As previously mentioned, the criminal process for state and federal crimes is different. You want to contact an attorney who knows these differences and has experience handling federal cases. At Palmer Perlstein, our team has decades of experience handling complex cases.

A federal criminal defense attorney can help advise you of your rights, provide guidance, advocate for you, and overall work toward getting you the best possible outcome.

Keep Quiet

It’s best not to discuss your pending case with anyone except your lawyer. Keep as many details to yourself as possible. You never know when what you say can be twisted and used against you, so don’t take the risk.

Prepare for a Hearing

After being arrested, there will be a detention hearing. At this hearing, a judge will determine whether or not to release you from custody. This will be determined based on the severity of the crime, evidence available, and personal factors about the defendant. Prior to this hearing, you will want to alert your defense attorney of any evidence that can help your case. This may be witness statements, an alibi, or any other information that could prove your innocence.

Understand Plea Bargains

It’s incredibly common for federal cases to result in plea bargains, rather than going through a full jury trial. Because accepting a plea bargain is a real possibility, you should have a solid understanding of what that entails. A plea deal is when the prosecutor offers the defendant reduced charges or a more lenient sentence in exchange for them pleading guilty and waiving their right to a trial. However, it is important to note that not everyone receives the option of a plea deal.

If you choose to go the route of accepting a plea bargain, your defense attorney can help negotiate the best agreement for you, and advise you on your next best steps throughout your case.

Texas Federal Crimes Defense

At Palmer Perlstein, one of our federal crimes defense attorneys has previous experience as a felony prosecutor. This gives us unique foresight about what to expect throughout a federal case, so we can truly provide you with the best possible defense.

To speak with one of our federal crimes attorneys about your recent contact or arrest by a federal agency, call (214) 891-3382.