In the United States, a federal crime or federal offense is a crime made illegal by U.S. federal legislation. In the United States, criminal law and prosecution happen at both the federal and the state levels; thus a “federal crime” is one that is prosecuted under federal criminal law, and not under a state’s criminal law, where most of the crimes committed in the United States are prosecuted.
Our federal criminal background checks includes many crimes that, if they did not occur on U.S. federal property, would otherwise fall under state or local law. Some crimes are listed in Title 18 of the United States Code, but others fall under other titles; for instance, tax evasion and possession of weapons banned by the National Firearms Act are criminalized in Title 26 of the United States Code.
Crimcheck conducts a search through the national PACER system to reveal any federal convictions or pending cases against an applicant. Cases brought against an applicant in federal court will not appear in county or municipal court searches. Federal offenses can include accounting fraud, computer hacking, conspiracy, corporate crimes, counterfeiting, gun law violations, health care fraud, etc. and are often times crimes occurring across state lines, on federal land or against the federal government.
What is the Federal Criminal Court System?
Federal criminal courts usually prosecute federal criminal offenses. These offenses can include bank robbery, drug trafficking, mail fraud and other crimes that are committed across multiple state lines. There are also lesser offenses such as littering in a national park or petty crimes committed on federal property. There are multiple district federal courts located in every state. Federal crimes are usually prosecuted in the district that the crime was committed. For instance, if a bank was robbed in Cleveland, Ohio the suspect would be prosecuted in the Ohio Northern District Federal Court. You can find a complete list of Federal District Courts here.
What is the difference between a federal crime and other types of crimes?
The main difference between a federal crime and other crimes (felony or misdemeanor) is that a federal crime is prosecuted under federal criminal law in federal courts and felonies and misdemeanors are prosecuted in city and county courts. Generally, federal crimes occur when a defendant crosses state lines or attempts to defraud the government. The most common federal crime is drug crime, when a defendant crosses state lines to obtain drugs or for the purposed of selling, distributing or trafficking. Other common federal crimes include:
- Bank Robbery
- Tax Evasion
- Mail Fraud
- If an offense happens on U.S. federal property, including banks, post offices, Indian reservations and Military bases
It is important to also note that all federal crimes are only identified by the defendant’s name.
Terms to Know
Arrest: The taking or keeping of an individual in custody by legal authority in response to a criminal charge.
Conviction: The act of finding an individual guilty of a crime.
Criminal Records: Official records relating to a criminal case.
Dismissed: The final result of a case in which the charges have been completely dropped against the defendant. Cases which have been dismissed are treated as if they were never filed in the first place.
Disposition: The settlement of a case. Many times, the disposition will hold the final arrangement including whether the defendant was found guilty and sentencing information.
FCRA: The abbreviation for the Fair Credit Reporting Act which is a federal law that regulates consumer information in how it can be collected and distributed. All third party consumer reporting agencies must be compliant under the FCRA. For more information about the FCRA, check out Crimcheck article titled “The FCRA is Your Friend (No, Really)”.
Felony: A serious crime. Felonies are usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year in prison.
Jail: Local government’s detention center where individuals who are awaiting trial or those who have been convicted of misdemeanors are imprisoned.
Jurisdiction: A city, county or state.
Misdemeanor: A less serious crime which is usually punished by fines, penalties or a brief term in jail.
Prison: A state or federal facility of convicted criminals.
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