You might assume that only state or local laws can make you a criminal. After all, federal agents are the ones who go after big-time players such as drug lords. But most people do not realize that there are many federal laws that also make criminals out of regular citizens.
Penalties for federal crimes are often harsher than they would be for other crimes. And according to the Pew Research Center, less than 1% of federal criminal defendants get an acquittal. If you find yourself facing charges for a federal crime, it will be important that you understand how the process works.
A federal crime is any criminal offense that violates federal law. The agency that takes on the case will depend on what authorities suspect you of. For example, the FBI may get involved if there is concern that you have posed a threat to national security. On the other hand, the Drug Enforcement Administration might investigate you if someone accuses you of a drug-related crime.
Offenses that are commonly charged by the federal government include:
- Mail fraud, wire fraud, tax fraud, securities fraud, healthcare fraud and other types of fraud
- Bank robbery
- Money laundering
- Drug trafficking or other drug crimes
- Felon in possession of a weapon
- Immigration offenses
The dual sovereignty doctrine
One point of confusion is the common overlap between federal laws and more localized laws. Under the dual sovereignty doctrine, the federal government and a smaller governmental body can charge you for the same offense if you have violated each of their laws. You can then wind up with more than one charge on your record, along with additional penalties.
While some federal charges are justifiable, others are due to misunderstandings. This is why you must arm yourself with information and protect yourself.