Which Crimes are Actually Tried at the Federal Level?

Many different types of crimes fall under federal laws, a vast majority of which tend to fall into just a few categories.


How so? Take a look at the numbers.


In 2016, nearly 68,000 federal cases resulted in prison sentences with roughly another 12,000 resulting in modified sentences or resentences. Over 80 percent of those cases fell into four categories: drug crimes, immigration crimes, firearm crimes, and fraud crimes.


That’s not an anomaly, either. These four categories make up most of the federal sentences over the past 10 years.


Below, we’re going to take a look at each of these categories in more detail, along with the penalties and what you can do if you are charged with any of them.

Federal Drug Crimes


Drug crimes are the most common offenses subject to federal sentencing. In 2016, over 30 percent of all federal cases involved drug crimes, of which nearly 90 percent involved drug trafficking charges.


Drug trafficking charges cover the manufacturing, sales, or transportation of controlled substances. Overall, the number of drug trafficking cases has fallen since 2012. However, heroin and methamphetamine cases have slightly increased since 2015.


Over 30 percent of all drug crimes are related to methamphetamine use, a number that has steadily increased since 1994. Cocaine-related crimes are second to methamphetamine-related crimes, making up just over 25 percent of the total drug crime cases. Marijuana cases comprise about 24 percent of the total. Heroin cases make up about 13 percent, and all other drugs, including prescription drugs, make up about seven percent of the total.


The drug crimes most severely punished are methamphetamine-related offenses. Those convicted must serve an average of 90 months in prison. Those convicted of marijuana-related offenses serve the least amount of prison time, at an average of 28 months. Crack cocaine offenders have the most serious criminal history as compared to all other types of drug offenders.


When a judge imposes a sentence for a drug crime, the offender’s role in the crime is a significant factor in sentencing. If an offender plays a major role in the drug crime, the guideline range may be increase. However, if the offender plays a minor role in the offense, the judge may lower the guideline range. For example, in marijuana-related crimes, the guideline range was lowered more than 37 percent of the time for lower-level involvement.


Federal Immigration Crimes


This category is the second leading federal offense. Nearly 30 percent of the total federal case load involve immigration crimes. In more than 80 percent of these cases, the offender either unlawfully entered or unlawfully remained in the United States. In the remaining cases, offenses were related to smuggling aliens.


Convictions for immigration crimes resulted in an average sentence of 13 months in jail. Hispanics account for over 96 percent of immigration crimes.


Houston Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

Federal Firearms Crimes


Slightly more than 10 percent of federal cases in 2016 involved firearms, a 3.3 percent increase over the 2015 case load. The majority of offenders in these case were charged withy illegal possession charges while roughly 24 percent were charged with the use of a firearm in connection with a drug crime or violent crime.


A firearm crime conviction in 2016 resulted in an average of 75 months of incarceration, which was down from the 79-month average in 2015. Over 17 percent of drug crimes involved the use of a weapon, most commonly in crack cocaine-related cases.


Federal Fraud Crimes


In 2016, fraud cases comprised 9.6 percent of the total federal case load, down more than 12 percent from 2015. The average loss amount in these cases was $2.3 million with the median amount being in excess of $200,000. Over the past 15 years, the fraud by organizations has steadily decreased.


Fraud convictions resulted in an average of 25 months of incarceration. Restitution was ordered in over 75 percent of fraud cases. Probation is a common component in fraud cases.


Examples of fraud crimes include identity theft, fraudulent financial transactions, falsified records, false statements and pretenses, mail fraud, and wire fraud.


Federal Fraud Crimes

What to Do If You Face Federal Charges


A conviction for a federal crime will result in serious penalties, most often significant terms of imprisonment with hefty fines and long periods of supervised release. If you are facing any kind of federal charge, regardless of the category, it is crucial that you get in touch with an experienced federal crime defense attorney as soon as possible.


The earlier you reach out, the better. Your attorney can assist you by helping you to craft the strongest possible defense against your charges, but waiting provides federal prosecutors and investigators with more of a head start and may even prevent you from using certain evidence that must be collected in a timely manner. Do not delay. Call today for a free initial consultation.