Laws are created at both the federal and state levels. States have the authority and responsibility to enact and enforce laws that apply to their state. Article 1 of the Constitution of the United States gives the Unites States Congress – comprised of the Senate and the House of Representatives – the soul authority to enact federal laws. Laws that are passed in Congress apply at the Federal level, which mean that when a federal law is violated it becomes a federal crime. Sometimes state and federal laws overlap. When they do, the state and federal government decide who will take responsibility. Quite commonly, a crime can be charged in either the state or federal court system. The consequences for federal crimes are usually much more severe.

Federal Laws and Crimes

There are thousands of federal statutes or laws that fall into various categories. In general, federal crimes apply to areas of national interest and affect more than one state. There are many federal agencies that enforce federal crimes. The FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation – is the primary federal law enforcement agency; in recent years since 9/11 many other agencies have been created. 

Who Prosecutes Federal Crimes

Federal crime prosecution falls under the umbrella of the United States Attorney, as opposed to state crimes, which are prosecuted by a district or state attorney.

Federal crimes occur when a person, group or corporation violates federal statutes. Sometimes state and federal laws overlap and both are violated. An agreement is reached as to who will prosecute the crime. Federal crimes tend to violate laws in more than one state.

Federal Crime Examples

Banks and other federally insured monetary institutions are regulated by federal laws; therefore, the federal government has jurisdiction, or authority, over banking crimes. Banking crimes deal with fraud – stealing money from the bank – whether by employees or third parties who have access.

  • Any Crime That Violates a Federal Law or Regulation – for example, U.S. Post Office fraud.
  • Crimes that involve interstate and international commerce – airlines, shipping, railroad, transportation.
  • Admiralty cases – water rights, boating, property lines, travel, and bridges.
  • International trade law matters – disputes between U.S. and foreign trade and business.
  • Patent, copyright, intellectual property – this broad area governs and protects patent and copyright holders. Examples include books, works of art, computer software, ideas, designs, inventions, etc.
  • Cases involving rights under treaties, foreign states and foreign nationals.
  • State law disputes – when two or more states disagree on an issue, the federal government is the final decision maker.
  • Bankruptcy matters – bankruptcy falls under the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, a federal program and therefore federal violations. Federal Constitutional Issues – Constitutional issues are decided by federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Class actions – Class action suits affect a group and disputes are filed, heard and settled in federal court.
  • Environmental regulations – Regulations that protect the environment; an example is protecting lakes from toxic chemical dumps by corporations.
  • Computer Fraud – Any computer fraud affecting a federally governed entity such as a bank.
  • Counterfeiting Crimes – The creation and circulation of counterfeited currency is a federal crime.
  • Credit Card Fraud – Credit cards are protected under federal laws.
  • Currency-related Fraud – Similar to counterfeiting, any violation of a law pertaining to currency is a federal crime. This may include Ponzi schemes and other monetary scams.
  • Embezzlement – When money is stolen from within a bank, insurance company, corporation or other entity it falls within federal jurisdiction.
  • Health Care – Health care is often federally subsidized; Medicare, Medicaid, other.
  • Insider Trading – Illegally profiting in the stock market as a result of access to confidential information.
  • Larceny – Fraudulent actions violating a federal statute.
  • Money Laundering – Illegally concealing the source of money – often, but not always illegally obtained - and ultimately transmuting it into “legitimate” cash, property or holdings.
  • Racketeering – Illegally obtaining or extorting money through illegal business activities
  • Securities Fraud –Inducing investors to purchase securities based upon fraudulent information with the goal of profiting.
  • Tax Crimes – Tax crimes including evasion, avoidance and manipulation are federal crimes.
  • Computer or Cyber Crimes – A virtually endless category using computers and the internet to violate federal law. Often includes monetary scams.
  • Extortion – Unlawfully obtaining money, services, property through coercion, often by organized crime.
  • Hate Crimes – Victimizing a member of a race, group, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or class.
  • Immigration – Violating any law pertaining to immigration in the U.S, including false entry, false documentation and frauds upon the government.
  • Mann Act: This law prohibits males from transporting females across state lines for the purpose of sexual intercourse. Often the females are underage.
  • Weapons Crimes – May range from possession of a firearm in a federal building, interstate transport of weapons, illegal sales of weapons, drug-related charges.
  • Smuggling – Defrauding the U.S. government by violating customs laws; not reporting merchandise to customs.
  • Organized Crime – Organized crime groups use force, extortion, blackmail, corruption and other means to profit, violating criminal laws.
  • Public Corruption – Often called political corruption, government officials use their power for illegitimate private gain, violating federal law.
  • White Collar Crimes – The full range of frauds committed by persons within the government. The term “white collar” refers to those in an office who do not use force to commit the offenses.
  • Mail and Wire Fraud – A federal crime since the late 1800’s, it fraudulently deprives others of their property using the U.S. mail and wire communication.
  • Drug Trafficking – Trafficking or moving drugs, often across state lines. Large amounts of drugs and cash often involved.
  • Music and Movie Violations – With modern technology, this may involve downloading music and movie files and sharing them with millions or billions of others.
  • RICO – RICO stands for, “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act,” this allows prosecution of leaders of crime syndicates to be prosecuted for ordering others to commit crimes.

Habitual Offenders

The court may impose an extended sentence if it finds that:

  • The defendant has previously been convicted of any combination of two or more felonies in this state or other qualified offenses.
  • The felony for which the defendant is to be sentenced was committed:
  • While the defendant was serving a prison sentence…that is imposed as a result of a prior conviction for a felony…
  • Within 5 years of the date of the conviction ….

Three Time Violent Felony Offender

  • A defendant for whom the court must impose a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment…

Violent Career Criminal

  • A defendant for whom the court must impose imprisonment … if it finds that:

The defendant has previously been convicted as an adult three or more times for an offense in this state or other qualified offense that is:

  • Any forcible felony
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Aggravated abuse of an elder person or disabled adult
  • Lewd or lascivious battery, molestation, conduct, exhibition
  • Escape
  • Felony involving the use or possession of a firearm

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Michael S. Berg
Attorney At Law