Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a federal crime and a state crime?
A federal crime is a violation of a statute passed by the United States Congress. A state crime is a violation of a statute or ordinance passed by the state legislature or a local authority. Most federal criminal statutes address conduct of national concern, or which involves interstate criminal activity.
However, in recent decades the federal government has become increasingly involved in prosecuting intrastate drug and violent crimes; areas once left almost exclusively to the states.
Many crimes are prosecutable in both state and federal courts, although federal authorities rarely choose to separately prosecute defendants for conduct which is already the subject of a state criminal prosecution.
Who investigates and prosecutes federal crimes?
For the most part, federal criminal offenses are investigated by agents of federal agencies such as the FBI, DEA, ATF, Secret Service and others. Occasionally, state law enforcement officers work in conjunction with federal agencies.
Federal crimes are usually prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office for the area where the crime occurred. Sometimes a prosecutor from the United States Department of Justice, or from an agency such at the Environmental Protection Agency will participate in a federal prosecution.
If I am charged with or under investigation for a federal offense do I need a “federal” criminal defense lawyer?
In order for a lawyer to represent you in a federal criminal matter he or she must be licensed to practice in the federal court where the case is pending or must receive permission from the court to practice there on a one time basis.
Additionally, the federal criminal justice system is drastically different than the state system. It is important that your lawyer have experience in federal court so that he or she can effectively represent you.
If I am under investigation for a federal offense but have not been charged should I contact an attorney?
You should contact an attorney immediately. You have important constitutional rights during the investigation that should be protected. How you proceed at this stage may drastically affect the ultimate outcome of your case. If you have further questions about federal crimes, call Eisner Gorin LLP today!