Any crime that offends the US federal laws is considered a federal offense. Federal law enforcement prosecutors and federal judges handle federal crimes in federal courts. They involve crimes against the government, terrorism crimes, intentional harm that involves officials of the federal government or agencies, drug crimes, identity theft, hacking a federally owned computer, etc.
Federal offenses also involve criminal activities that would fall under the local state jurisdiction had they not occurred on federal property.
When individuals face federal criminal charges, it means their actions offended or violated the federal law, so they must be tried at a higher level than a state violation. Crimes like tampering with mail, tax evasion, and hijacking an airplane are federal matters that require a federal criminal defense. The defendant may encounter words like federal offense as their ordeal continues. Federal criminal defense attorneys help individuals facing federal criminal charges under federal prosecution guidelines that are higher than state court guidelines.
Many crimes become federal offenses due to aggravating factors that usually increase the severity of the crime. They include aggravated assault, sexual abuse, identity theft, battery, and various forms of fraud. Although the typical situation involves state authorities, increasing the severity of the crime to aggravated bumps up the case to the federal courts, where an individual may face penalties that place them behind federal prison bars. Federal crimes could also lead to consequences such as losing certain privileges like driving or remaining around children.
One of the factors that separate state crimes and federal crimes are jurisdiction. One way of looking at it is by considering if the crime took place on a state or federal property. For instance, criminal activities involving the vandalism of your town’s recreational center involve state property hence a state offense. On the other hand, vandalism on a national park or a federal building falls under the jurisdiction of federal law.
Federal crimes are usually investigated by US federal government agencies such as the FBI, DEA, border patrol, or NSA. But these law enforcement agencies work hand in hand with the state’s law enforcement authorities to prosecute the matter. During the trial and court appearances, a federal prosecutor bears the burden of proof, and the evidence must attest beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crimes.
Some of the state crimes also fall under federal offenses depending on the circumstances involved. For instance, if found guilty of a state crime, you might also be guilty under federal law for the same action. An example of such a crime is a bank robbery. Such situations take many defendants by surprise.
Suppose you rob a bank and FDIC insures it. In that case, you face both state and federal charges. This is because violating the state laws of robbing a bank is a state crime. Additionally, you have violated the federal law of robbing a federally insured bank, so you also face federal charges. In such a case, state sentencing is added to the federal sentencing.
A crime is a federal offense if it violates the national laws of the US government, which means that the defendant must be tried at a higher level than the state court.