An Insight Into the Federal Criminal Justice System

According to the United States Department of Justice, criminal offenses can fall into State crimes or federal offenses. The crimes are charged accordingly, either at the state level or fed level. While each state like Texas has its laws, some crimes fall under both categories. If you live in the Houston area and stand accused of a crime at the federal law, contact top Houston lawyer Mark W. Bennett, one of best Texas criminal law attorneys around.

Federal Criminal Cases

A federal crime refers to an act that violates the law and is charged in the federal court. When federal offenses go to trial, the United States attorney rather than state or district attorney prosecutes the case. If there’s a conviction, the sentencing adheres to the federal guidelines and the convict may face incarceration in fed prison and not a state correctional facility. The list of federal crimes is defined under Title 18 and 26 of the U.S. Code. Other sections also deal with unlawful provisions.

For an act to properly fit as a federal offense, the offense must have some connection to fed interest rather than exclusively local interests. Crimes that are considered criminal at both the fed and state levels can be charged on either state or fed level. Several factors influence the decision on which level the case will be prosecuted. In general, the following crimes undergo trial at the federal position.

  • Financial crimes
  • Drug trafficking
  • Large-scale fraud
  • Organized crime
  • Crimes against federal official
  • Fraud crimes against the United States

The state courts prosecute many cases involving crimes against a person (like assault, murder, and rape) and crimes against property (like robbery and theft). Typically, the number of cases the state prosecutes is higher than what the federal does. However, some cases are exclusively prosecuted in the fed court. Such cases include custom offenses, espionage, and treason, federal tax evasion or illegal acts involving fed taxes.

Authorities that deal with federal cases

The following government agencies can interrogate fed crimes

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
  • Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Secret Service

Felonies and Misdemeanors

As the state level crimes, fed crimes are categorized into two main groups; that is misdemeanors and felonies. A misdemeanor is a crime whose incarceration does not exceed twelve months. Felony is a crime with a jail term that exceeds twelve months.

Statute of limitation

The statute of limitation refers to the time within which a crime can be legally prosecuted. Under code 18 section 3282 of the United States, the law of limitation for the majority of fed crimes is five years. However, the statute of limitation for fed crime varies.

The statute of limitation may exceed five years for some crimes. The government may prosecute the following offenses even after five years.

  • Art theft
  • Arson
  • Crimes against financial institutions
  • Other cases such as those involving bankruptcy fraud, child abuse, and wartime fraud.

The statute of limitation may fail to exist for certain crimes. This means that certain fed crimes have no statute of limitation. The government can prosecute such offenses years or decades after they are committed — for example,

  • Capital murder.
  • Certain crimes of terrorism
  • Crimes punishable by the death penalty
  • Certain federal sex offenses.

The circumstances under which the statute of limitation may be extended include when;

  • The DNA of the accused is required as evidence
  • The accused is a fugitive
  • There is a need for more time to secure foreign evidence overseas

The Punishment for fed crimes

Many who’re charged with committing offenses plead guilty. More than 90 percent of fed cases hardly go to trial. The guilty plea is often met with a plea bargain which implies a compromise between the accused and the government. The plea bargain often results in leniency, a reduced sentence or a reduced charge.

If the defendant is found guilty after the trial or pleads guilty, the judge determines the sentence according to the fed sentencing procedures. The guidelines consider the nature of the crime that was committed, the criminal record of the accused and the level of the offense. The judge also takes into consideration all the trial evidence and any other relevant details. The sentences for fed crimes can differ significantly. Some sentences can entail paying a fine while others involve paying restitution to the victim of the crime. Probation sentences can occur, or the court may sentence the accused to life without parole. In some circumstances, the judge may enforce some restrictions like mandatory testing or drug testing.