When Does a Crime Become a Federal Offense in North Carolina

Federal crimes are crimes that violate United States federal law and are therefore prosecuted in a U.S. federal court, as opposed to by the state. Most crimes are charged within the jurisdiction of the state in which the crime was committed, but depending on the nature of the crime itself a federal court may investigate and prosecute the crime instead. 

At Sandman, Finn, & Fitzhugh, our over 50 years of combined legal experience will help you with every step of the federal trial process. If you have been charged with a federal offense, it is important to obtain the best legal representation possible and to do so quickly. 

State. Vs. Federal Crimes

Most crimes that involve local victims and local offenders that utilize local resources will be charged in a North Carolina state court. Even though the federal government has laws against certain crimes like murder, theft, or assault, each individual state has its own set of laws and consequences for those crimes. It’s important to understand that a state crime can be turned over to federal officials and prosecuted at the federal level.

Federal crimes are usually more complex and cover multiple jurisdictions, leading to a more expansive use of resources, time, and money. Acts of terror, mail fraud, and drug trafficking are some examples of crimes that would be prosecuted in federal courts. 

Federal criminal charges oftentimes hold more significant, long-term consequences for the offender. From lengthier court proceedings to longer prison sentences, courts will often serve more severe punishments at a federal level, regardless of which state the crime was committed.

When Can a State Crime be Charged as a Federal Crime? 

There may be unique circumstances to the case that have it fall under the jurisdiction of the federal court instead of a state court. A crime is federal when multiple states are involved, the offender crossed state lines, or the details of the case are of interest to the federal courts and therefore federal prosecutors choose to take on the case. 

Who Decides Whether a State vs. Federal Court Prosecutes a Crime? 

State and federal prosecutors work together to determine who will prosecute a case. Oftentimes, if the federal court chooses to prosecute, the state will dismiss its charges. However, it’s important to note that although rare, this is not always the case nor is this a requirement of the state to drop its charges. 

North Carolina prosecutors can choose to relinquish a case to federal prosecutors. While this does not happen all the time, it happens frequently in some specific cases like cases involving trafficking or firearms. 

Since state and federal courts are considered different jurisdictions, the double jeopardy law that prohibits someone from being charged with the same crime twice in the same jurisdiction, cannot be applied. 

Crimes Commonly Charged in Federal Courts

Here are examples of federal crimes and the types of cases that state prosecutors will often turn over to federal prosecutors: 

  • Gun-related charges or cases involving the use of a firearm. 
  • Drug Trafficking or other cases involving interstate commerce. 
  • Conspiracy charges. 
  • Manslaughter or homicide. 
  • Kidnapping, abduction, and other crimes committed across state lines, in multiple jurisdictions. 
  • Criminal offenses on federal property like military bases, federal buildings, or historic sites. 
  • Crimes against the government. 
  • Acts of terrorism. 
  • Arson, armed robbery, and other crimes that deliberately cause harm. 

For a more comprehensive list of federal crimes, go to our federal crimes page.  

What to Do When Charged with a Federal Crime

If you have recently been arrested for a federal crime or have been contacted by a federal organization and believe you may be charged federally, it is important to understand your rights and the challenges that are ahead. 

Federal crime charges should be taken very seriously– federal prosecutors work tirelessly to build a strong case to put before a federal judge. 

Contact a Federal Attorney As Soon As pOssible

Your federal criminal case can lead to negative consequences for your future, so you should, before anything else, contact a reputable and experienced federal lawyer. Having expert legal counsel to represent you in federal court is the most important first step of your legal process. Your attorney will fight on your behalf, advocate for your rights, and work with the court to determine the best possible outcome for you. 

Only Speak with Your Federal Attorney About the Case

One of the worst mistakes defendants make is to speak with friends, family, or anyone else about the details of their federal criminal case. It can be difficult to remain quiet when your federal criminal charges create a stir of emotions, fear, and uncertainty. 

Even when you believe you can trust someone, you can never know how details of your case may get misconstrued or misrepresented by others. Speak only to your federal criminal attorney about the details of your case. 

Prepare for Your Hearing

After an arrest,  you will be given a hearing before a judge to determine if you can be released from custody or not. There are a few factors that will depend on your release, including the severity of the crime, the amount of evidence against you, and personal details like if this is the first offense or if you have a criminal record. 

Your attorney should be alerted to any details that can help your case that can be used to convince the judge that you are not a threat to yourself or others, and will not flee if released from custody. 

Understand the Meaning of Plea Deals

When facing federal criminal charges, understanding the options you have is vital. Often, the courts will offer a plea deal to the defendant. Plea deals can result in a reduction of time served or lesser charges, but they come with an agreement on the part of the defense. 

You may be asked to plead guilty or to waive your right to a trial in a plea deal agreement. It’s important to discuss these possibilities with your attorney and to understand the potential options you could be presented with. 

If You’ve Been Charged with a Federal Crime, Contact Our Raleigh Attorneys Today

Facing federal criminal charges can be stressful, confusing, and overwhelming. It’s important to work with a knowledgeable and experienced defense team who understands federal crime charges. 

The lawyers at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh can help you navigate and prepare for every step of your federal criminal case. Contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a free consultation at 919-887-8040 or fill out our contact form below to speak to one of our attorneys today.

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