What are Interstate Crimes?
There are many different types of crimes, namely state and federal crimes. Some are crimes only when they happen in one state. But when a crime happens in two states and crosses borders, it can become a federal crime.
U.S. Congress also passed federal laws prohibiting other interstate crimes that don't involve crossing state lines. This is done under the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause, which allows Congress to pass laws that affect interstate commerce.
Numerous types of offenses can be charged as federal crimes, including the category of interstate crimes. When a crime crosses state lines, it can become a federal prosecution.
In addition to crimes involving crossing state lines, the United States Congress enacted many criminal laws relying on powers given under the commerce clause, giving them the authority to pass laws that affect interstate commerce.
Federal cases are very different from state cases, which is one of the primary reasons you will need a defense lawyer qualified to represent you in a federal courthouse because not all lawyers admitted to the state bar can represent you in a federal court.
Federal offenses are prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys and investigated by federal law enforcement agencies, such as:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),
- Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE),
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Anyone charged with a federal crime will end up in federal court before a federal judge appointed for life by the President. If you are facing an allegation of an interstate crime, then it is critical to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.
What Are Some Examples of Common Interstate Crimes?
Many crimes become federal crimes once there is an allegation that criminal activity crosses state lines. Some of the most common interstate crimes include:
Human Trafficking under 18 U.S.C. 1581 – 1597 is a serious federal criminal offense. It often involves transporting someone across state lines for labor services. This act can be accomplished through coercion, force, or fraud. Human trafficking can also involve sex trafficking.
The Mann Act is the federal law that prohibits human trafficking, making it illegal to transport someone across state lines for immoral reasons.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, leading to the government passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). People who help with human trafficking in any way can also face severe consequences.
In sex trafficking cases, the victims are typically forced to engage in prostitution to pay an alleged debt. The victims are usually underage girls coerced to work in a brothel where the traffickers can control their activity.
Drug Trafficking – 21 U.S.C. 841 - Many are surprised to learn that a drug offense they thought was minor can result in a federal charge for drug trafficking.
Drug trafficking involves taking illegal drugs across state borders. This law is wide-ranging, with drug trafficking charges authorized for illegally making, distributing, providing, or importing/exporting illicit drugs.
A drug trafficking conviction under federal law can result in lengthy prison sentences, even for a first offense, due to mandatory minimum sentences for different quantities of drugs allegedly trafficked.
Mail Fraud - 18 U.S.C. 1341 or Wire Fraud 18 U.S.C. 1343 - Mail and wire fraud is when someone uses mail or wire communication, like email, to take someone's money or property. This crime involves the use of deception. Wire fraud is any fraudulent activity involving electronic communications of any kind. This federal fraud crime carries penalties and other punishments for the underlying offense.
Mail and wire fraud can also involve other federal crimes. For example, if someone uses email as part of a tax evasion plan, that individual could be charged with additional federal crimes.
This statute provides punishment for anyone who devises a scheme to defraud or obtain money or property by false pretenses by transmitting wire communication in interstate commerce. The primary elements of the crime of wire fraud are a fraudulent scheme and the use of interstate electronic communications to execute it, or attempt to execute, the illegal scheme.
What are the Potential Penalties of Different Crimes?
Interstate crimes can have various penalties depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. Since there are so many interstate crimes, we will focus on the abovementioned crimes. The potential penalties for these crimes are discussed below.
A conviction for human trafficking can result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years for many offenses, including forced labor and peonage. Convictions involving sex trafficking can result in a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
Suppose sex trafficking involved a situation where the defendant sexually assaulted the victim or they forced the victim to engage in sexual-related activity without consent? In that case, they could be sentenced to life in federal prison.
A conviction for federal drug trafficking can result in several mandatory minimum sentences depending on the type of drug trafficked, the amount, and other surrounding circumstances. Standard mandatory minimums are five, ten, and even 20 years if a death or serious injury results from the drugs trafficked.
A conviction for mail or wire fraud can result in up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. This can be increased if a financial institution is involved. If wire fraud affects a financial institution, such as a banking scheme, the prison sentence could be as high as 30 years.
What Are Some Defenses to Allegations of Interstate Crimes?
For a prosecutor to secure a conviction for an interstate crime, it must be proven that the defendant acted purposely and with a knowing intent.
If someone did not know they were involved in human trafficking, that lack of intent could be a potential defense. If the individual accused did not cross state lines in any way, then the lack of an interstate act can be used as a defense against an interstate crime.
The appropriate charge in that situation might be a state charge, which can lead to a lower potential sentence. We have the experience and skill to defend mail fraud charges.
If charged with federal wire fraud, your defense attorneys might be able to argue there was a lack of intent since wire fraud requires an intent to commit fraud.
Maybe we can provide evidence that you were an unwitting participant in a fraudulent scheme and had no intention of defrauding anyone.
Suppose law enforcement or the prosecutor violated an accused's Constitutional rights in inspecting or finding evidence? In that case, that evidence can be removed from a case if the defense files a motion to suppress and argues it successfully in front of the presiding judge.
When facing an interstate criminal charge under federal law, your criminal defense attorney will work with you to craft the best defense. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, California. You can reach us for a case review via phone or use the contact form.