For the most part, federal crimes are prosecuted by the federal government but there are situations where there is a crossover of jurisdictions between federal and state jurisdictions. Under the direction of the Attorney General, U.S. Attorneys, also known as chief federal prosecutors, are the nation’s principal federal litigators.
Both the federal and state governments prosecute crimes and some crimes can be tried in either jurisdiction depending on the specifics of the particular crime. Whether or not a particular crime is prosecuted by state or federal governments can be a complex issue because the two branches of government often have overlapping jurisdictions for some matters.
The federal government has its own criminal statutes, court system and police agencies as does each state in the United States. Even though there are many federal crimes that are tried by the federal government, the majority of crimes that are prosecuted in the US are done so at the state level. Common federal crimes that are typically prosecuted by federal agencies and courts include but are not limited to:
– Drug trafficking offenses
– Organized crime
– Financial crimes
– Large scale fraud
– Large scale crime
– Crimes against federal officials
– Crimes against the United States government (e.g. treason
– Tax evasion
– Possession of illegal weapons
– Mail fraud
– Child pornography
– Identity theft
– Aircraft hijacking
– Bank robbery
– Federal hate crimes
– Internet and computer crimes
– Electoral fraud
– Damaging or destroying United States Post Office property
– Attempting to or assassinating (the President or Vice
– Illegal wiretapping
Certain crimes such as offenses involving federal taxes, crimes of espionage, and crimes of treason can only be prosecuted by the federal government.
Most crimes against people, such as murder, assault, and crimes against property such as robberies or theft, or those such as DUI/DWIs, are tried at the state level. The majority of crimes in the US are prosecuted at the state level.
State and Federal Similarities
While many states have similar criminal statutes, each state has laws and procedures specific to the individual states. And while there are differences between the criminal procedures for states and the federal government, there are some core principles of United States criminal law and practice that apply equally to state and federal investigations and prosecutions.
Unlike in civil investigations, judges in criminal investigations do not investigate the cases they hear. The executive branch, not the judicial branch, is who investigates and prosecutes crimes. Investigative members of the executive branch such as prosecutors, investigating agents, and police officers, are those who investigate and prosecute crimes.
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