What Makes a Crime a Federal Offense


Depending on the nature of the crime of which you are accused, you could face trial in a state or federal court. You may be subject to federal prosecution and penalties if you are accused of committing a crime that violates laws passed by Congress or violates the terms of the United States Constitution. Federal prosecutions generally involve crimes where interstate commerce is affected, although only an experienced attorney can explain the nuances of this complex concept.

Which Crimes Fall Under Federal Jurisdiction

You could face the possibility of federal prosecution if any of the following are true:

  • Your supposed crimes involved federal law enforcement officers or took place on federal property – This may include crimes committed on a military base, Native American reservation, or other federal land and crimes committed against members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Border Patrol, Park Police, or other government agency.
  • You allegedly crossed state lines in conjunction with the crime in question – Such crimes may include kidnapping, transporting illegal drugs, and moving stolen property across state lines.
  • The criminal activity in which you were allegedly involved crossed state lines – Such crimes do not necessarily require the offender to have physically crossed state lines and may include distribution of child pornography, human trafficking, and Internet-based offenses such as fraud.
  • The crimes in question involve immigration, customs, or human rights offenses – Related crimes may include illegal immigration, falsifying customs forms, international human trafficking, and civil rights violations.
  • Your alleged crimes involve a form of public corruption – This may take the form of bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, nepotism, or other misuse of power.

The Process under Federal Jurisdiction

If the crimes which you are accused of committing fall under federal jurisdiction, you will most likely be prosecuted in a federal court. You will more than likely be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys, and be under investigation by federal officers such as the FBI. This is opposed to being investigated by local or county officials and being prosecuted by state district or city attorneys. In general, federal prosecutions take longer to be resolved than state prosecutions and generally involve more several penalties and less credit for “good time” if prison time is imposed by the Court.

Being Prosecuted in State and Federal Court.

However, sometimes such crimes can fall under both state and federal jurisdiction, which is called concurrent jurisdiction. In some cases, this can result in accused persons’ being subject to multiple trials and doubled penalties. This does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause because both courts are separate and sovereign entities, and therefore can charge a person for the same crime.

Punishment for Federal Offenses

When sentencing defendants, most judges follow the federal sentencing guidelines. Usually, federal sentencings are much longer than state sentencings due to the mandatory minimum sentencing and other factors, such as the generally harsh nature of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Even if two different people commit similar crimes but one is under federal jurisdiction, the person charged in federal court will be typically face much harsher penalties than the defendant who is charged in state court. Additionally, someone sentenced to serve time for a federal crime is sent to federal prison rather than being sent to a state prison, where “good time” is greatly affected and much less forgiving than state prison.

Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Serving the Accused in Nebraska

At Berry Law, we provide skillful criminal defense for people accused of state and federal crimes in Omaha, Lincoln and throughout Nebraska, as well as in Iowa. We understand the ins and outs of the federal grand jury process, the policies of federal law enforcement agencies, and the guidelines which govern criminal proceedings and issuance of penalties for federal crimes.

If you have been accused of a federal crime or suspect you may soon be, we are prepared to evaluate your case and advise you regarding your next steps. We are a group of highly skilled Nebraska and Iowa federal defense attorneys with the knowledge and experience to help you navigate the uniquely demanding and daunting process of a federal criminal investigation.

Call (402) 466-8444 today to speak to a member of our team, or send us an email to tell us how we can serve you.

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