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Clients often ask us how to know whether a certain crime is subject to state or federal jurisdiction. While there is no simple answer, and some crimes can be prosecuted by either state or federal law enforcement, there are some offense categories that are more likely to be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office than by the state prosecutor. Those crimes include the following:
- Immigration & Tax Offenses. Both federal tax crimes and immigration violations are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts. These crimes are regulated by the United States Congress, and Texas therefore has no authority to prosecute such cases in its state courts. Typical tax offenses include tax evasion, tax fraud, and identity theft related to tax returns, whereas common immigration crimes include illegal entry or re-entry into the U.S., immigration fraud, smuggling of persons, and crimes committed by non-permanent residents. Customs violations are also within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts because such crimes affect the borders of the United States. These crimes include smuggling of goods, false statements to customs agents, misrepresentations of the nature of the goods being imported or exported, concealment of import or export, failure to declare, and import or export of stolen property.
- Trafficking. Any crime involving interstate commerce may be subject to federal jurisdiction. For example, stealing a car is typically a state crime, but if the car is driven over state lines, the theft additionally becomes a federal crime. One common crime in this category is moving a victim across state lines for the purposes of prostitution, which violates the federal Mann Act, 18 U.S.C. Sect. 2421-2424.
- Internet & Computer Crimes. Any offense committed over the Internet or with the assistance of a computer could be a federal crime, because the Internet is not in one particular location but rather available and accessed throughout the country. Thus, federal prosecutors have taken a particular interest in computer crimes, including internet fraud, hacking, identity theft, online harassment and stalking, interception of communications (including military or government communications), site interruptions, and unauthorized access to information stored on computers or the Internet. Additionally, any act that is a crime when committed in person may be prosecuted federally when it is executed through the channels of the Internet, even if both parties are in the same city. Such crimes include online prescription drug fraud, online prostitution, online gambling, and illegal distribution of drugs.
- Currency Crimes. Another category of federal crimes involves misuse of United States currency, including counterfeiting or money laundering. Counterfeiting is the crime of reproducing, copying, or imitating an item, including money, with the purpose of injecting that item into the market as the legitimate item. Money laundering involves taking money that is “dirty” because it was received as the result of a crime like racketeering or embezzlement and “cleaning” the money by passing it through a legitimate business to disguise the original, illegal source of the funds.
- Medicare Fraud. “Program crimes” are those that defraud a federal government healthcare beneficiary program, such as Medicare or Tricare, or that breach the terms of a contract between the defendant and the government program. Recently, federal prosecutors have become increasingly active in investigating and prosecuting these types of healthcare frauds.
- White-Collar Crimes. The term white-collar crime is used to describe non-violent fraud or theft crimes. Often, these crimes involve embezzlement or securities fraud, and the federal government has the authority to prosecute both of these crimes, as well as healthcare fraud, bribery, bank fraud, wire and mail fraud, and mortgage fraud.
- Violent and Drug Crimes. Violent crimes, such as armed robbery or murder, and drug crimes, such as trafficking or distribution, can be charged by the federal government, especially when they contain an element of terrorism or interstate commerce or if they involve a large amount of illegal narcotics. Among the most frequently charged violent federal crimes are kidnapping, terroristic threats, arson, and sex crimes involving children. The most commonly charged drug crimes include possession with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute narcotics.
The attorneys of the Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP have handled hundreds of federal cases in federal courts across the country.
- Dr. Nick Oberheiden (Managing Partner)
- Lynette S. Byrd (Former Federal Prosecutor)
If you have questions about the federal justice system or want to know how to defend against the government, then call us today and speak with one of our senior attorneys directly at (903) 472-0000.
Criminal Defense – Healthcare Law – Litigation