When you are accused of committing a crime, you might assume you will be charged with breaking a state law. You will then face a state prosecutor in state court. This assumption might be right, since some crimes are purely state matters. However, federal courts have jurisdiction throughout the country and there are times when an offense amounts to a federal crime. Certain actions are solely federal crimes, yet there are also situations in which criminal conduct violates both state and federal law. When this happens, state and federal prosecutors negotiate how to charge you.

If you are facing federal charges or are being told your case may move up to federal court, contact an experienced Philadelphia federal crimes lawyer from Fienman Defense at (215) 839-9529 immediately.

We can review your situation and advise you on the next best steps.

If you are charged with a federal crime in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, attorney Michael Fienman is ready and able to represent you in federal court.

When a Crime is Prosecuted in Federal Court

Not every offense can be tried in federal court. Many matters are reserved for the states. However, certain circumstances can elevate an offense from the state to federal level.

A crime may be prosecuted in federal court if it:

  • Violates federal law. There are certain crimes that violate both state and federal law or only federal law. If you are accused of an action that is both a state and federal offense, prosecutors may debate over which government entity moves forward with charges. The federal government usually wins that argument. If the crime you committed is only a federal offense, such as counterfeiting U.S. currency, then you will automatically go to federal court.
  • Was investigated by federal authorities. When a federal law enforcement agency becomes involved in an investigation of a crime, federal prosecutor will take on the case, not the state. This includes but is not limited to investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
  • Occurred on federal land. If you are accused of committing a crime on federal land, such as a national park or Native American reservation, then you will be charged and tried in federal court.
  • Crossed state borders. If you are accused of crossing one or more state borders during the course of criminal conduct or some part of the criminal action, such as drugs or fraudulent communications, crossed a state border, then you may be prosecuted in federal court. Once a crime occurs in more than one state, it is said to affect interstate commerce, which is the federal government’s jurisdiction. Keep in mind that does not have to be a physical movement. If you are accused of committing crimes over the Internet with victims in different states, this counts as crossing state borders.
  • Involved an informant. If someone informs on you to a local, state, or federal law enforcement officer, then the offense is automatically federal. It does not matter whether the informant willingly came forward or provided information during a plea deal.

Contact a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

In most circumstances, you want to avoid federal prosecution. Federal law is known for having much harsher punishments than state law, particularly the mandatory minimums for drug offenses. There may be room to negotiate for a lower federal crime, mitigating the potential consequences of conviction, or the ability to seek state charges.

At Fienman Defense, our legal team has handled numerous federal cases. We are well-versed in the federal rules of procedure and evidence, and we are prepared to represent you in Pennsylvania or New Jersey federal court right away.

If you are worried about federal criminal charges, call us today at (215) 839-9529.

View All Blogs