State vs. Federal Crimes

Most people - particularly those who have never been arrested or charged with a crime - know very little about the workings of the criminal justice system. Even fewer know the difference between a state crime and a federal crime. People routinely hear mentions in the news of federal prosecutors and law enforcement agencies - such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives - but do you know why these agencies are involved in certain cases? If you have learned that you are under investigation for committing a federal criminal offense, it is important for you to understand why you are being investigated and what you can do to avoid the serious consequences you may face.

Violations of Federal Criminal Legislation

Title 29 of the Ohio Revised Code contains statutes which describe various crimes as defined by the state. Similarly, Title 18 of the United States Code is composed of more than 120 chapters describing such offenses as homicide, kidnapping, and domestic violence. In addition to crimes listed in Title 18, there are tens of thousands of federal regulations on the books, and violation of some regulations may also be classified as a crime. The American Bar Association has attempted to make an accurate count of the number of federal crimes that exist; its best estimate is that there are more than 3,000.

Federal criminal statutes generally concern activities that take place in more than one state. Whereas the courts of Ohio typically have jurisdiction over crimes occurring within our state, the federal courts hear cases involving interstate commerce. For example, an arrest for domestic violence will usually lead to a trial in the local court. A violation of 18 USC §2261 "Interstate domestic violence," in which the perpetrator "travels in interstate or foreign commerce" in order to commit an act of domestic violence, can be tried in a federal criminal court.

Common Types of Federal Crimes

If you have been charged with a serious drug offense, your case may be subject to federal jurisdiction. For example, drug trafficking is commonly categorized as a federal crime provided that it involves smuggling or transporting controlled substances across state or international borders. Many white collar crimes are charged on the federal level when they involve the actions of people in several states, such as wire fraud, mail fraud, credit card fraud, or identity theft. A large number of internet sex crimes also are subject to federal prosecution for the same reason. If your case is being investigated by any branch of the Department of Justice, you can expect to be charged with a federal crime. To learn more about your situation and possible strategies that can be used in your defense, contact us at Gounaris Abboud, LPA for a free, confidential consultation.