Many criminal defense firms, including Black Law, state that they represent clients on federal charges. Persons accused or charged with a crime should know that criminal offenses can be categorized as federal offenses and state offenses. If an offense is federal, then it’s prosecuted at the federal level in federal court. If an offense is a state offense, then it’s prosecuted in state court at the state level. A main question though becomes: How do you know whether an offense is a federal or state crime?

Federal Government Having Sole Jurisdiction

“Jurisdiction” is a legal term that means a specific court has the power to hear and decide a legal case. When we mention “sole jurisdiction,” we mean that only one particular court can hear a case. In the criminal law context, there are certain situations where the federal government will have sole jurisdiction. This means the case can only be heard in federal court – and not state court.

Some situations in which the federal government has sole jurisdiction include:

  • When a crime is committed on federal land or property. This may happen when there is a drug offense on a military base or an assault on a Native American reservation.
  • When the defendant violates a federal statute that requires crossing of state lines in order to commit the crime. This may happen in a kidnapping case where the defendant kidnaps a victim in Washington and takes the person to California, or when the defendant transports others for the purposes of commercial sexual activity.
  • When the conduct becomes a crime because it crosses state lines. This may happen when criminal conduct begins in one state but causes harm in another, as in an internet fraud case.

Further situations include:

  • Immigration cases
  • Customs offenses
  • Espionage
  • Treason
  • Federal tax evasion

Federal and State Governments Sharing Jurisdiction

There are criminal cases in which jurisdiction lies with both the federal court and a state court. This means the case can either be heard, or decided, at the federal level or state level. Please note that the ultimate decision on whether these cases are heard at the federal level or state level depends on several factors.

However, on a general level, the following crimes are typically prosecuted in federal court (when jurisdiction lies with both state and federal courts):

Sentencing for Federal Crimes

If a criminal case is handled at the federal level, the case is prosecuted in federal court. Further, if the defendant is found guilty, then the federal court hearing the case determines the defendant’s sentence. Judges in federal court cases determine sentences by using the federal sentencing guidelines in conjunction with consideration of multiple factors specific to the case and to the defendant. These factors include: the specific crime that was committed, the defendant’s role in the offense, the defendant’s background and history, the defendant’s criminal history, and any additional aggravating or mitigating circumstances. Federal judges may consider all the evidence that was produced at trial in addition to evidence presented by either the government or defense at sentencing.

Sentences for federal charges can vary – depending on the specific crime committed and the facts of a given case. Federal charges, if successfully proven, can lead to significant prison time, probation, fines, forfeiture of property, and restitution.

Federal criminal charges are always serious matters. When charged with a federal crime one must seek the representation of an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney with a successful track record handling cases in federal court.  . At Black Law, our Seattle criminal defense lawyers have the skill and talent that makes a difference. They have over 20 years of combined experience handling federal criminal charges. They are tireless in their efforts and successful in their representation. Contact them now and get the help you deserve.