The question of whether a crime is subject to state or federal jurisdiction is not always easy to answer. The following is a brief, but by no means complete, overview of categories of offenses that are subject to federal law and prosecuted by the federal government.
Immigration & Tax Offenses
Immigration and tax offenses are two broad categories of federal crimes. Many of these federal offenses have a long history within the exclusive subject matter jurisdiction of the federal government. For example, illegal entries and re-entries into the United States, smuggling, immigration fraud, and similar immigration crimes are all prosecuted by the federal government, not state prosecutors. Similarly, tax crimes such as tax evasion and tax fraud, are subject to federal jurisdiction, as well.
Import and export crimes also fall into this category. These include smuggling goods into the United States, entry of goods by means of false statements, misrepresentations or concealment of goods at U.S. Customs, failure to declare, and importation or exportation of stolen property.
Crimes that involve interstate commerce (transportation or communication across state lines) are subject to federal jurisdiction. For example, if a defendant moves a victim from Arizona into California as part of a prostitution ring, state criminal statutes will generally be superseded by the applicable federal laws, such as the Mann Act.
Internet & Computer Crimes
Crimes involving the Internet are also charged as federal offenses because they involve communications that cross state lines. Federal computer crimes include computer fraud and abuse, electronic and non-electronic interception of communications, hacking, interception of military communications, and unauthorized access to stored communications. Likewise, crimes committed with the help of an Internet-connected computer, such as online prostitution, online pharmacy fraud, extortion, and blackmailing, will generally be charged as federal crimes, even if the defendant and the victim live in the same state.
Another category of federal offenses covers crimes affecting United States currency. The most common example of a currency crime is counterfeiting. Counterfeiting involves the reproduction, copying, or imitation of U.S. currency without authorization with the purpose to inject the copy into the market as a legitimate currency.
Money laundering is classified as a currency crime, as well. Money laundering involves injecting “dirty” money from illegal activities such as racketeering, embezzlement, or drug dealing into the market through an otherwise-legitimate operation in order to prevent the government from tracing the money back to its illicit source.
So-called “program offenses” will be charged as federal crimes when they involve federal programs such as Medicare and Tricare. Program offenses typically involve defrauding the federal government (for example, by billing for services that were never rendered) or breaching the terms of a federal government contract.
Another large group of federal offenses includes what are commonly referred to as white-collar crimes. “White-collar” refers to crimes that are non-violent in nature and that usually involve an element of fraud or theft. Some examples of federal white-collar crimes include Health care fraud, mortgage fraud, bank fraud, bribery, embezzlement, wire fraud, mail fraud, insurance fraud, money laundering, and securities fraud.
Lastly, some violent crimes, including murder, can be charged as federal offenses. These offenses most commonly fall under federal jurisdiction when they involve an element of either interstate commerce or terrorism. Along with murder, some of the most frequently charged violent federal offenses include Child abduction, arson, and sex crimes involving children (such as sexual exploitation, online pornography, or physical and sexual abuse of a child).
Speak with a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney at The Criminal Defense Firm
The attorneys of the The Criminal Defense Firm have handled hundreds of federal cases in federal courts across the country. Our legal defense team includes experienced criminal defense attorneys and former prosecutors who have decades of experience in the federal criminal justice system.
If you are under investigation or have been charged with a federal offense, call us today to speak directly with one of our senior attorneys at 866-603-4540. Or, request a free criminal defense evaluation online and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Dr. Nick Oberheiden is a national litigation and trial criminal defense attorney who practices exclusively in the area of federal law.