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Federal Crimes Defense Attorneys in Seattle, Washington

You have probably heard the saying: “Don’t make a federal case out of it.” The expression is used when someone makes something disproportionate to what it really is. In other words, the subject is minor but is being reacted to as major.

There is a reason why this adage came about—it’s rooted in the fact that federal crimes are a step above state crimes. The laws, judges, juries, and prosecution are different. The consequences of a conviction are more serious. You have so much more at stake if you are convicted in federal court than in state court.

When the federal justice system operates at a different level, you need a criminal defense attorney who represents clients being investigated or charged with federal crimes. With more than 50 years of combined experience in federal court, the attorneys at Carney & Marchi, P.S. are fierce advocates for Seattle and Washington State clients who are facing federal criminal charges.  

What Constitutes a Federal Crime?

Most crimes fall under the jurisdiction of state courts. However, there are crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal court system for reasons detailed in the U.S. Constitution.  

With the authority of Congress, the federal justice system is tasked with prosecuting certain crimes exclusively under the tenets of subject matter jurisdiction. Those subjects include the U.S. Postal Service, bankruptcy, currency, immigration, taxes, and patents. Crimes like mail fraud, credit card fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and tax evasion fall under federal jurisdiction. So do violations such as patent infringements, counterfeiting, and illegal entry into the country.  

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For practical purposes, crimes that cross state lines fall under federal jurisdiction. Computer fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud all qualify, as do the trafficking of drugs or kidnapping across state lines. Many firearms violations involve crossing state lines as well (e.g., the illegal sale or shipping of firearms). Marijuana sales, possession, and use may be legal in most states now; however, certain events involving the substance are still violations of federal law, making the movement of what may be legal in your state now across a state line a federal offense.

Crimes on federal property likewise fall under the purview of the federal justice system. Federal property includes national parks, post offices, federal offices such as your local Social Security Office, Indian reservations, federal courthouses and prisons, and other federal buildings. In fact, crimes committed in the District of Columbia, which is not a state, fall under federal jurisdiction. 

What if Crimes Overlap Federal and State Laws?

There is often an overlap between violations of federal and state laws. The Constitution protects people from being tried a second time for the same charges they were tried for before, regardless of whether the verdict was guilty or not guilty. You may know this concept as “double jeopardy.” 

However, where federal and state courts overlap in prosecuting someone for crimes, they have what is known as concurrent jurisdiction, meaning both courts can prosecute the same offenses. Concurrent jurisdiction is not double jeopardy because federal laws and criminal charges and state law and criminal charges are two separate matters. 

How Does Federal Prosecution Differ From the State Court Process?

There are many significant differences between the federal judicial system and state judicial systems, starting with who is involved in them. 

Investigations of federal crimes involve federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Department of Justice, to name a few. These agencies are staffed with talent and possess resources that states cannot match.

Federal prosecutors and judges are assigned to one case at a time, unlike overburdened state employees. Juries are pulled from a broader geographic range at the federal level which makes them far more diverse. If you are granted bail on federal charges, you will need to comply with far more requirements than paying a 10% bond to be released pending conviction. House arrest, reporting regularly to a law enforcement officer acting much like a parole officer, mental health and substance abuse evaluations, and other measures may be required under the terms of your bail.

You should also know that, while state law enforcement usually arrests people and the prosecuting attorney files the appropriate charges and then investigates to build a case, federal prosecutors have built their cases by the time people are charged with a crime. Because the rules of discovery in federal court are far more stringent than those of state courts, your criminal defense attorney may not have access to some of the evidence being used against you. 

Finally, penalties for convictions in federal court are usually much more severe than state penalties. Your sentence is not merely based on the charges, but also on the role you played, the amount of money, drugs, firearms, and other items involved, and your criminal history. Federal courts are not lenient when people are convicted of federal crimes. 

Federal Crimes Defense Attorneys in Seattle, Washington

If you are being investigated for a federal crime, do not wait to hire an experienced federal crimes defense attorney. Once you are charged with a crime, your attorney faces a greater challenge of building a defense. Call the attorneys at Carney & Marchi, P.S., in Seattle, Washington now. If someone is going to make a federal case out of it, you’ll need them in your corner.