Federal crime in the United States

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Federal Bureau of Investigation Seal. The FBI is the main agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting federal offenses.

In the United States, a federal crime or federal offense is an act that is made illegal by U.S. federal legislation. Prosecution happens 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, under which most of the crimes committed in the United States are prosecuted.

This includes many acts that, if they did not occur on U.S. federal property or on Indian reservations or were not specifically penalized, would otherwise not be crimes or fall under state or local law. Some crimes are listed in Title 18 of the United States Code (the federal criminal and penal 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.

Numerous federal agencies have been granted powers to investigate federal offenses, include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, and the Secret Service.

Mail fraud which crosses state lines or involves the (national) United States Postal Service is a federal offense. An equivalent offense, under Canadian criminal law, is theft from mail[1] (section 356 of the country's Criminal Code).

Other federal crimes include aircraft hijacking, kidnapping, bank robbery, child pornography, obscenity, tax evasion, counterfeiting, violation of the Espionage Act, wiretapping, art theft from a museum,[2] damaging or destroying public mailboxes, immigration offenses, and since 1965 in the aftermath of the President John F. Kennedy's assassination, assassinating the President or Vice President.[3]

In drug-related federal offenses mandatory minimums can be enforced. Federal law is implicated when a defendant manufactures, sells, imports/exports, traffic, or cultivate illegal controlled substances across state boundaries or national borders.[citation needed] A mandatory minimum is a federally regulated minimum sentence for offenses of certain drugs.[4]

Prosecution guidelines are established by the United States Attorney in each federal judicial district and by laws that Congress has already established.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Criminal Code". Laws-lois.justice.gc.ca. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  2. ^ "§ 668. Theft of major artwork". Legal Information Institute. 
  3. ^ "Attacks on President Now Federal Crime". The New York Times. September 1, 1965. Retrieved 2009-10-05. A bill that would make killing, kidnapping or attacking a President a Federal crime has been signed by President Johnson. 
  4. ^ http://famm.org/Repository/Files/Chart%20841--Fed%20Drug%20MMs%208.6.12.pdf

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