Federal crimes are crimes defined by federal law and prosecuted by a federal agency. Federal crimes can take different forms, such as internet fraud, conspiracy, tax evasion, or federal drug offenses, to name a few. The process of prosecuting someone for federal crimes can be more complex than prosecution for local crimes in Ohio, so it is important to understand what you might be facing if you are suspected of a federal offense.
On the local level, the police department can arrest a person based on any crime within the jurisdiction of that department. However, the FBI website explains that there is no overarching agency that investigates federal crimes. Different agencies are tasked with investigating different crimes. For instance, counterfeit charges fall under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service, but people who engage in terrorism are investigated by the FBI.
Also, not every federal crime is also a state crime. Every state has a law on the books criminalizing murder and robbery, but the federal government does not prosecute people for these crimes alone. There must be a federal connection involved. For instance, the federal government may get involved if a bank that is federally insured is robbed, or if a federal official is victimized in the course of performing a government function.
After federal charges are presented, the person being charged will typically undergo a jury trial, although in some cases the case will be heard before a judge. However, just as with state trials, it is possible to negotiate a plea deal that reduces the charges or the severity of the sentencing. There is no guarantee that a plea deal will be accepted, though a court might not outright reject it and will discuss alternatives with the defense and prosecution.
Federal trials can involve different aspects that can impact the outcome, such as Voir dire, where the prosecution and the defense interview jurors to try to remove candidates who might produce an unfavorable judgment for their side. Even if a person is convicted of a federal crime, a judge may weigh the sentence by whether the person convicted had a prior criminal background or other mitigating circumstances, as well as take the impact of the crime on any victims into account.
The complexity of being charged with a federal crime means having legal representation is essential to understanding your rights, including how you may be able to avoid a trial through a plea bargain. Because federal offenses take many forms, do not consider this article as legal advice. It is only intended for educational benefit.