Federal crimes can range from drug trafficking and immigration violations to some of the most serious weapons charges and human trafficking. The government bodies that investigate federal crimes will do everything in their power to convict you. They have more time and resources to devote to your case than state prosecutors, so you will absolutely need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Don’t delay. The sooner you retain legal representation, the better your chances of receiving a more favorable outcome in court. Take the first step in building your defense and contact our firm. Call (832) 530-4070 or submit your information in the online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
State vs. Federal Charges
If you are charged with a federal crime, it means that you have allegedly violated the United States Code. There are over 100 offenses classified as federal crimes under Title 18 of the United States Code. Regardless of the offense, certain factors determine whether a crime is a federal one. Those factors are:
- You crossed state lines
- The offense took place on federal land
- The offense involved a federal official
- Violations of customs and immigration violation
- The offense violated the United States Code
Any offense that meets the aforementioned criteria will be prosecuted in federal court by the United States Attorney’s Office. Agents from the country’s governing bodies will be tasked with investigating the crime. Some of these agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF).
State crimes, on the other hand, are prosecuted by state attorneys and investigated by local and state law enforcement agencies. Crimes that are prosecuted by the state are those that violate the Texas Penal Code. Offenses that are commonly handled on the state level include domestic violence, small drug crimes (i.e. possession), and driving under the influence.
The penalties for federal crimes normally carry a much harsher sentence than state crimes. This is because federal judges have far less discretion than Texas judges when it comes to sentencing decisions. Depending on the crime, you could spend up to life in federal prison and be forced to pay millions of dollars in fines.
According to a report from the United States Sentencing Commission, drug crimes are the most common type of federal case. The report states that 21,387 drug cases were reported in 2016. Of those cases, 89.9% of them were drug trafficking offenses.
Drug trafficking is defined as knowingly dispensing, distributing, manufacturing, or possessing with the intent to distribute or manufacture a controlled substance. In some cases, possession of large amounts of certain drugs can result in trafficking charges.
Controlled substances commonly involved in drug trafficking include methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. The penalties you face for the crime will depend on the substance and its amount. If convicted, you could spend anywhere from five years to life in federal prison and be required to pay fines that can range from $100,000 to $75 million.
Is Child Pornography a Federal Crime?
Child pornography is another crime that is commonly prosecuted on the federal level. The offense is defined as visual imagery that depicts children under 18 in sexual situations for sexual stimulation. This can include photos, videos, drawings, and computer-generated images.
The state can also prosecute child pornography. For the federal government to get involved, the offense must have taken place in interstate or foreign commerce. This can include using the U.S Postal Service or other mail carriers to transport the material across state or international borders.
Federal jurisdiction will also get involved if you were caught as part of a sting operation conducted by the FBI. These operations are typically done within a file-sharing network. An FBI agent will act under a fake username and browse the network to search for incriminating files and the users accessing them.
Child pornography is a crime that is not taken lightly by the federal government. If convicted of the crime, you could spend up to 40 years in federal prison and be required to register as a sex offender.
According to the FBI, human trafficking is the third-largest crime in the world. Victims involved in the crime are bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves. They are often forced to work as prostitutes or take jobs in restaurants or factories for little or no pay.
The extent of the penalties will depend on whether you committed labor or sex trafficking. If convicted of labor trafficking you could spend up to 20 years in federal prison. However, if the offense includes kidnapping, sexual abuse, or attempted murder you could face up to life in prison.
Human sex trafficking is more heavily penalized than labor trafficking. If the offense involved children under 14 years old, you could spend up to life in prison. If the trafficked individuals are older than 14, you could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.
Contact a Harris County Federal Crimes Lawyer
Obtaining an experienced legal defense can be the difference between going to federal prison and going home. Every case that comes through the door at The Gonzalez Law Group is treated with diligence, and yours is no exception. We vow to exhaust all our resources to achieve the best possible outcome for your situation.
Our criminal defense department has over 70 years of collective experience defending clients in communities across Harris County. Schedule a time to speak with our attorneys. Call (832) 530-4070 or submit your information in the online contact form.