What is a federal crime?

Only select crimes are considered federal crimes and therefore heard in and sentenced by federal courts.

Any Kansas resident who recalls the Oklahoma City bombing could have some framework for understanding federal crimes. Laws in the United States can be developed and enacted at municipal, state or federal levels. Most crimes fall under state statutes but a select few, as noted by the Federal Judicial Center website, fall under federal jurisdiction.

Understanding the difference is important, especially when some alleged crimes can actually be governed in part by both state and federal laws. An example of this would be if a person is accused of holding up a bank in Overland Park. If the person successfully obtains money from the bank and those funds are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the crime would be considered to be under federal jurisdiction.

The basic rule

In general, any crime that violates a federal law or provision of the U.S. Constitution can be tried in a federal court. These may include serious drug crimes if they involve bringing illegal drugs into the United States from another country. Any violation of U.S. immigration law, such as the attempt to illegally enter the country, is a federal crime.

A recent example

The Boston Marathon bombing of a few years ago is perhaps one of the most glaring examples of a federal crime today. This case also highlights a unique aspect of federal crimes regarding the sentencing. According to a report in GovExec.com, the United States reinstated the death penalty as a potential consequence for federal crimes in 1988.

Since that time, there have been just under 500 cases in which the federal government sought this in a sentence. Of those, only three have actually resulted in executions. These include two executions in 2001 for the Oklahoma City bombing and for murders related to drug crimes. The third took place in 2003 and involved a defendant convicted of murder and rape.

Today, a fourth person stands to be the next one executed under this federal law. Unless potential appeals are successful, the man convicted of the Boston Marathon bombing will be put to death.

Other issues facing federal cries

Sometimes it is law enforcement officials that are accused of crimes. Such is the case in recent situations in Ferguson. Help of federal law enforcement is being requested in the form of federal funding for body cameras to be worn by police at state and local levels.

Important information for defendants

Anyone who has been arrested on suspicion of a federal crime deserves a proper defense. Contacting an attorney promptly is always recommended.

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