Federal crimes are commonly thought of as more severe offenses. While state crimes in New Jersey might cover offenses like theft or burglary, federal crimes usually apply to widespread crime that crosses state lines, crimes committed against federal employees, or crimes against the United States as a whole. These crimes often have a higher level of sophistication, and so do the law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors that cover these cases.
If you or a loved one was charged with a federal crime in New Jersey, it is important to talk to an attorney who can help. John Zarych of The Law Offices of John J. Zarych is a former federal trial lawyer with decades of experience in both the New Jersey and Federal criminal legal systems. For a free consultation on your federal charges, contact our law offices at (609) 616-4956.
Federal Charges Vs. State Charges
State governments have “general police powers,” which allow them to write criminal laws that take effect within state borders. Crimes, traffic laws, and other offenses can vary from state to state because each state writes their own laws. The federal government does plenty of things like collect taxes, govern the armed forces, regulate interstate commerce, and ensure national security, but it does not have general police powers. Instead, the federal government’s laws relate to its areas of control, namely interstate trade, border security, and protection of federal employees and property. That means that New Jersey may be able to charge you with theft if you stole money from someone, but the US government cannot – unless you transported the stolen money across state lines, stole from a federal employee, used the mail, stole directly from the US government, or otherwise ran afoul of federal jurisdiction.
Federal Law Enforcement
Most federal crimes are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies. Most cases fall to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), but other cases may be investigated by:
- DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency),
- ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives),
- ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement),
- Secret Service,
- Department of Homeland Security,
- US Marshals,
- Air Marshals, and more.
Federal cases are also prosecuted by the federal government in federal court. Instead of your case going to the local district attorney or state prosecutor, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) acts as the lawyers for the government. US Attorneys (USAs) and Assistant US Attorneys (AUSAs) try federal cases with support and direction directly from the DOJ. The DOJ, US Attorneys, and federal investigators often collaborate on federal cases to ensure that search warrants, wiretap warrants, and other legal processes are handled correctly.
Federal Judges and Juries
These cases go before federal judges, appointed by the president. Unlike many local judges, these judges do not need to run for their position or win elections, and they serve for life.
Juries used in these cases are still drawn from pools of local citizens, but they may be drawn from larger geographic areas. Since New Jersey only has one federal district court, federal jurors can be drawn from anywhere in the state, not just Atlantic County.
Sentences for Federal Crimes
Federal crimes are punished with federal prison sentences. These prisons are separate from the New Jersey prison system and house only federal prisoners. The federal criminal justice system uses its own statutory minimums and maximums and its own sentencing guidelines, making its cases and penalties different from NJ crimes.
Can You Face State and Federal Charges at the Same Time?
Because New Jersey and the federal government write their own laws, we live in a “dual sovereignty” system. Under this setup, both the state and federal governments each have independent power to prosecute you for a crime. That means that when state and federal laws overlap, you could actually face charges in both legal systems. Unlike the common battles for “jurisdiction” seen on TV dramas, local police and the FBI can both investigate crimes, and you could face charges in a New Jersey state court as well as the federal court system.
It is important to always talk to an attorney if you face federal charges. Federal crimes are often more serious than state crimes, and the FBI does not tend to waste time or resources on minor offenses. While the constitution’s protection from “double jeopardy” does not block you from facing a state and federal charge for the same conduct, your attorney can help defend your rights and challenge the evidence against you by using other constitutional rights and protections.
Atlantic County Federal Crime Defense Attorney Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was charged with federal crimes in Atlantic County or anywhere in South Jersey, talk to the Atlantic County federal criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Our lawyers can help defend you from a variety of federal criminal charges, including charges for:
- Drug trafficking,
- Mail/wire fraud,
- Mail theft,
- Child pornography,
- Tax evasion,
- Immigration offenses,
- and other federal offenses.
For a free consultation on your case, contact The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.