When individuals find themselves facing criminal charges, it is important to understand that these charges can sometimes escalate to become federal offenses.
Federal crimes are typically more serious than state-level charges, and they can lead to harsher penalties.
1. Crossing state lines
One common scenario that can elevate criminal charges to federal crimes is when the alleged criminal activities cross state lines. This can include drug trafficking, kidnapping or even cybercrimes that target victims or organizations in multiple states.
2. Involvement with federal agencies
Certain criminal activities that interfere with the functioning of federal agencies can lead to federal charges. For example, obstructing an investigation by the FBI or committing fraud related to federal benefits or contracts can quickly turn a state-level offense into a federal crime. The government takes such disruptions seriously to protect its operations and resources.
3. Crimes on federal property
If a crime occurs on federal property, the chances of prosecution at the federal level increase significantly. Federal properties include national parks, military bases, post offices and government buildings. Offenses like vandalism, assault or theft committed on such premises fall under federal jurisdiction.
4. Violating federal laws
Violating specific federal laws can result in federal charges. For instance, the possession, distribution or trafficking of illegal drugs can lead to federal charges under the Controlled Substances Act. Tax evasion or fraudulent financial activities may trigger charges under federal tax laws.
Between 2012 and 2021, only 1.5% of U.S. court cases went to federal court. Although a small percentage, federal charges come with added complexity and challenges.