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When could a crime lead to federal charges?

Dealing with criminal charges is always alarming – and always serious. And facing any charge can leave individuals in North Carolina with many questions. What will happen next? What are their rights?

These questions and concerns become even more critical if individuals learn they could face federal charges as well. Hearing this can come as a shock and also lead people to another question: how did the charges escalate to the federal level?

What makes an act a federal crime?

There are a few circumstances when a crime could result in federal charges. These situations include:

  • If the action specifically violates federal laws, such as assaulting law enforcement officers
  • If an individual charged with committing a crime or the criminal activity itself crossed state lines
  • If criminal activity occurs on federal property, including courthouses or federal offices
  • In some cases, if the criminal activity involves certain aggravating factors

For example, mail fraud usually involves federal charges because it uses the federal organization of the United States Postal Service and frequently crosses state lines. This is also why many other white-collar crimes lead to federal charges.

Do federal charges involve greater risks?

It is true that federal crimes often lead individuals to face increased risks and consequences. State charges and federal charges can vary significantly. Additionally, federal charges involve different investigation and prosecution processes. But there are two primary issues individuals should be aware of in particular:

  1. Federal charges frequently involve greater penalties than state charges, including significantly higher fines and more jail time
  2. Individuals could face prosecution at both the state and federal levels, regardless of double jeopardy protections

Several factors could turn state charges into federal charges. That is why individuals must take any criminal charges seriously, and take steps to protect their rights.