Fighting Federal Crimes in Pennsylvania
The vast majority of criminal offenses occur at the state level, in municipal or county courts. There are, however, certain areas where federal jurisdiction supersedes state jurisdiction. If a criminal offense falls into one of the categories below, it may be federally prosecuted:
- It falls under clear subject matter jurisdiction, including issues regarding bankruptcy, immigration, patents, the Postal Service, or printing/regulating U.S. currency. This is known as subject matter jurisdiction and might include counterfeiting U.S. money, criminal immigration cases, bankruptcy fraud, mail fraud, etc.
- Crimes committed on federal property—When a criminal offense occurs on federal property, such as on the national forest, in a U.S. National Park, on an Indian reservation, in a federal prison, in a federal courthouse, within the District of Columbia, on an airplane in flight or an ocean vessel at sea, or in or on any federal building, it becomes a federal criminal offense.
- Criminal offenses that cross state lines—Any time a criminal offense involves crossing state lines—particularly as relates to weapons, drugs, or kidnapping—the federal government is given jurisdiction over offenses that might otherwise fall under state authority.
- Concurrent jurisdiction occurs when federal and state laws overlap. While relatively rare, federal and state prosecutors can pursue separate actions against a defendant, in spite of the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy. This means that even if a person was acquitted of a specific criminal offense, state prosecutors could then bring their own charges.
Seeking Top Federal Criminal Trial Lawyers When It Matters
Lee Ciccarelli and his criminal team our experienced and devoted to fighting for our clients. Contact our federal criminal defense team today if you are seeking a federal criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania. We serve clients in Pennsylvania including the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area, including West Chester, Lancaster, Norristown, Media, King of Prussia, Doylestown, Harrisburg, Reading and Lebanon. Contact us today by email or call us at (610) 692-8700.
State courts handle about ninety percent of criminal offenses, therefore have much more contact with the public than federal courts do. The cases the federal courts do hear are likely to be cases associated with national importance.
Federal vs. State Charges
As noted, federal offenses specifically violate U.S. federal laws and are prosecuted by government agencies, such as the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the DEA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the IRS, the Secret Service, or the U.S. Marshals Service, or by the U.S. Department of Justice (criminal division), or the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Penalties for a federal crime tend to be much more severe than the penalties for the same crime in a state court.
Judges in the federal court system are nominated by the President of the United States. These positions are for life, once approved by the Senate. Federal prosecutors usually begin in state systems, and only those that stand out after rising through the ranks are chosen as federal prosecutors. Federal prosecutors have a reputation for extreme tenacity and toughness when prosecuting federal criminal offenses.
The vast majority of those prosecuted federally are convicted of the crime they are accused of. Because of this, it is imperative that those accused of a federal crime have highly experienced legal representation. Most of those that are accused of a federal crime will end up taking a plea deal in an effort to reduce the length of their federal sentence.
Types of Federal Crimes
A wide array of federal criminal offenses exists, such as:
- Mail fraud
- Assassination or attempted assassination of the President or Vice-President
- Animal cruelty
- Child pornography
- Credit card fraud
- Mail fraud
- Aircraft hijacking
- Museum art theft
- Illegal wiretapping
- Violations of the Patriot Act
- Damaging or destroying public mailboxes
- Election fraud
- Immigration offenses
- Tax evasion
- Violations of the RICO Act
- Federal hate crimes
- Computer Crimes
- Identity Theft
- Bank robbery
- Drug trafficking
- Weapons offenses
More Information on Federal Criminal Offenses
There are many federal criminal offenses related to weapons. It is a federal crime to import, manufacture, or deal in firearms without a license, or to sell to those who fail to pass a background check or are underage, even with a license. Developing, transporting, or possessing a toxin or other biological agent with the purpose of weaponizing the toxin or agent—or allowing a foreign government to weaponize the toxin or agent—is a federal offense.
Developing, producing, or acquiring a chemical weapon either in the United States or by a U.S. citizen outside the United States is a federal crime. Any individual that provides support to a foreign terrorist power regarding a nuclear weapon program or a weapon of mass destruction has committed a federal crime.
Counterfeiting and forgery are well-known federal criminal offenses, with virtually all crimes related to counterfeiting considered a Class B felony with a prison sentence of 25 years or more, and a maximum fine of $250,000. Counterfeiting charges can result from the creation of a printing plate or scanning an image of currency with an intent to defraud. Counterfeiting money orders, postage meter stamps, stamps, or coins are all federal crimes, as is forging a court seal, a court signature, or a U.S. agency seal. Even tampering, altering, or removing a vehicle’s VIN number is considered a counterfeiting crime.
Drug trafficking is a federal criminal offense that involves crossing state lines in order to sell illegal drugs. There are provisions that make it unlawful to make, distribute, or possess with the intent to create or distribute any illicit drug, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP, LCD, and marijuana. Even “legal” prescription drugs, when trafficked illegally, become a federal criminal offense. Regarding marijuana, even though the drug is now legal in many states, possession, growing, buying, or selling are still federal crimes.
Embezzlement and theft are federal crimes that exist when federal public money, property, or records are involved—i.e., if a program receives federal funds and that money is embezzled, the crime could be charged on a federal level. Any embezzlement of bank funds is also considered a federal crime.
Kidnapping, when a person is transported across a state line or via an airplane or ocean vessel, becomes a federal criminal offense. It is also a federal offense for any person to receive ransom for a kidnapping. Taking hostages in any situation also elevates the crime to a federal criminal offense.
Mail fraud is a federal offense that extends beyond the United States Postal Service, including FedEx, UPS, and other mail carriers. Destruction of a mailbox (that is not your own), as well as theft of the mail inside another’s mailbox, or breaking into a mailbox is considered a federal offense. While each state has its own laws concerning child pornography, the creation, distribution, or possession of child pornography can be a federal criminal offense. Transmission of child pornography via mail, electronically, or physically across state lines is a very serious federal offense.
There are many different immigration-related federal crimes, including the creation or sales of false citizenship or naturalization papers. Improper Entry and Illegal Reentry are federal crimes, with enhanced penalties for illegal reentry. Bringing into the U.S., harboring, transporting, or encouraging illegal immigration is also a federal offense. Because it is a federal crime to lie under oath, federal perjury charges have been in the news often lately. The penalties for a perjury conviction can be fines, up to five years in prison, or both.
Racketeering is another federal crime that can be charged in many different schemes, from murder and kidnapping, to arson, bribery, and even the recent college admissions scandal. Cases involving pirated movies, pirated software, securities fraud, and trade secret theft can also have racketeering charges added. In some instances, racketeering charges are used in drug trafficking cases as well.
Some federal crimes you might not think about involve animals. Any person that hunts, destroys a nest, or interferes with fish breeding in a wildlife sanctuary or refuge may be charged with a federal criminal offense. It is against the law to bring many different plants and animals into the United States, and it is illegal to attend an animal fight in the United States or even create a video that depicts the death or serious bodily injury of an animal.
Any crime committed against a United States employee or federal law enforcement officer is a federal offense. Even an attempt to intimidate or retaliate against a United States official, law enforcement officer, or judge via threats to the individual’s family can be charged as a federal criminal offense. Espionage—gathering or sharing defense information—is another serious federal criminal offense, as is anything having to do with explosives when you do not have the required license.
What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Federal Criminal Offense
Because federal penalties can be so severe—and because those charged with a federal crime will have the full weight of the federal government against them—it is extremely important that you have a highly knowledgeable criminal defense attorney by your side who has extensive experience in federal criminal defense. This is not something you want to wait on—your window of opportunity can be small, so use it wisely. To answer your questions regarding federal criminal offenses, see the following:
- Arrest, Indictment, and Arraignment
- Computer and Internet Fraud
- Federal Conspiracy
- Federal Crimes FAQs
- Federal Crimes Versus State Crimes
- Federal Drug Trafficking
- Federal Government Investigations
- Federal Sentencing Guidelines
- Federal Sex Offenses
- Federal Tax Fraud
- Gun Possession and Federal Drug Crimes
- Insider Trading
- Money Laundering
- Miranda Rights
- Illegal Search and Seizure
- Police Wiretaps
- Police Misconduct
- Unlawful Arrest
- Civil Rights Violations
- Police Brutality
Get the Help You Need
You want a team of experienced, passionate federal crimes lawyer that are ready to fight for you. Contact the Ciccarelli legal team today at (610) 692-8700. We serve federal criminal clients throughout Pennsylvania and are convenient to our clients with office locations in Philadelphia, West Chester, Lancaster, Springfield, Malvern, Plymouth Meeting, Lancaster, and Radnor and also available for phone and video meetings. You can have our lawyers provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (610) 692-8700 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.