Criminal prosecutions by the federal government often make people pay more attention to the offense involved. Federal crimes are generally viewed by the public as beings more serious, but that perception is often misleading. The reality is that federal criminal prosecutions most often involve the same offenses as those prosecuted in state courts. The federal government gets involved in these cases based on the circumstances or magnitude of the offense, e.g., terrorism offenses, drug offenses or white collar crime involving interstate commerce.
What is the difference between a federal and a state crime? What types of federal crimes are often prosecuted in Texas? Read on to find out.
State and Federal Crimes: What’s the Difference?
The differences associated with federal and state crimes can sometimes be complicated because prosecutorial jurisdiction is not always clear under existing laws.
In very broad terms, when a crime occurs in a state, then it usually is considered a state crime. If it is committed in multiple states, or it occurs on federal property, it’s usually prosecuted as a federal crime.
State crimes reflect actions that violate the laws of the state in which you live, while federal crimes violate federal statutes.
How they’re prosecuted is protected in part by the U.S. Constitution, which uses the Supremacy Clause to determine if a crime should be prosecuted federally or by the state. In order for the federal government to prosecute, federal law has to surpass state law.
Common Federal Crimes in Texas
There are many types of crimes that often fall into the federal government’s jurisdiction. The most common include:
Theft is defined as actions taken that intend to deprive another person of their property permanently. Federal theft charges are often centered around stolen property that is transported between states, or it involves more than one state during the course of the crime. The federal government can also charge theft if email and/or text messaging are used to commit theft.
Possession of a Controlled Substance
The government regulates substances that people are allowed to possess, referred to as “controlled substances”. It’s not illegal in every case to possess a controlled substance, like those for which you have a prescription.
However, it is illegal to possess some controlled substances without a prescription. This also goes for substances that are illegal to have in your possession outright. The federal government can charge you with possession, and it is a charge that can send you to prison for a long time.
White Collar Crimes
White collar crimes are usually non-violent crimes motivated by financial gain. Those who perpetrate them are frequently professionals with access to personal or business assets. They take advantage of these for their personal profit.
Money laundering, bank fraud, health care fraud, and credit card fraud are examples of white collar crimes. They are often prosecuted by the federal government.
Internet crimes involve those that take place, not surprisingly, over the internet. They can include acts such as identity theft, phishing, ransomware, and spoofing – as well as any other crime that involves the use of the internet. Federal penalties for internet crimes can be quite severe. This is purposeful, to serve as a deterrent.
Whether you are charged by the state or the federal government, it’s vital to always understand the charges against you — as well as your rights as a defendant to fight back against those charges.