In the United States justice system, there are two main categories of crimes. First, there are state crimes. These are crimes that break the laws of a state and are handled by that state’s supreme court, local courts and municipal courts.
The second category are federal crimes. These offenses are those which violate the laws set in place by U.S. courts. Federal crimes constitute the gravest offenses that a U.S. citizen can commit.
Types of Federal Crimes
Most federal crimes are those which exploit a federal system, such as Medicare or the FDIC, or which are considered serious enough to warrant federal prosecution. Some examples of offenses that may be prosecuted by the federal government include:
- Mail Fraud. The United States Postal Service is regulated and overseen by the federal government and any criminal scheme that involves the mail service can be prosecuted as a federal offense.
- Bank-Related Crimes. Banks are regulated and insured by the federal government in the form of the FDIC. Crimes such as robberies, bank fraud or wire fraud violate the regulations of this federal agency and can be considered federal crimes.
- Other Crimes. Crimes that span several different states or different countries can be prosecuted by the federal government because the government oversees interstate and international commerce. This may include interstate or international drug trafficking crimes.
Punishments for Federal Crimes
Because federal offenses are usually more serious than state or local crimes, the federal government frequently hands down very tough sentences for such crimes. Drug trafficking charges can bring decades in federal prison. Crimes like mail fraud or bank robberies are also severely punished and usually have steep fines as an additional penalty.
Not all attorneys will handle federal cases. Many lawyers that take on these cases have experience as federal prosecutors or U.S. attorneys because special knowledge and experience is necessary to understand the complexities of federal law. Finding a defense attorney with the required experience is vital for defendants accused of federal crimes.