Olsinski Law Firm team

Federal Crimes FAQs

Highly Experienced Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorneys Dedicated to Helping Clients Defend Against Charges in North Carolina District Courts

In North Carolina, a crime can be prosecuted by either the state or federal government. That said, the vast majority of criminal offenses are filed in state court. It’s really in only a few scenarios where federal prosecutors pick up a case. However, when a case is filed in federal court, it’s usually more serious. Federal prosecutors tend to cherry-pick the most serious and complex cases, meaning it’s imperative for anyone facing a crime in federal court to understand as much as possible about the system, the crime they’ve been charged with, and what defenses may be available to them. Read on to review a list of federal crimes FAQs.

At the Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC, we represent clients facing criminal charges in both state and federal court. We command an impressive understanding of the procedural and substantive differences between North Carolina law and federal law and pride ourselves on our ability to craft compelling defenses to even the toughest cases.

When Does a Federal Court Have Jurisdiction over a Crime?

There are a few different reasons why prosecutors might decide to prosecute a case in federal court. As a preliminary matter, a federal court must have jurisdiction over the case, which can occur in any of the following situations:

  • The defendant violated a federal law;
  • Parts of the crime occurred in different states; and
  • The crime occurred on federal property.
When Do Prosecutors Bring Charges in Federal Court?

Federal prosecutors handle a small percentage of the cases they could prosecute. The general rule is that less serious crimes, or those that only affect residents of a single state, are better prosecuted by the state. This frees up federal resources to prosecute the more serious crimes. Federal prosecutors will also pick up cases that present complex issues as well as those that require significant resources to prosecute.

What Are the Most Common Federal Crimes in North Carolina?

While most cases could theoretically end up in federal court, there are certain types of crimes that are more likely to be handled by the federal court system. These include:

  • Drug Trafficking Cases: By definition, drug trafficking involves transporting drugs across state lines. Drug trafficking also tends to involve large amounts of narcotics.
  • Fraud Cases: Fraud crimes, including mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, credit card fraud, and healthcare fraud, are usually carried out on the internet or through the mail, triggering federal court jurisdiction.
  • Child Pornography: Child pornography crimes are not only extremely serious, they also generally involve computers, which are instruments of interstate commerce. This gives federal courts jurisdiction to hear all types of child pornography cases.
  • Firearms Cases: Gun cases involving the illegal possession, sale, or use of firearms, especially by convicted felons or in connection with drug trafficking or violent crimes, are frequently filed in federal court. In part, this is due to states’ differing gun laws.
  • White-Collar Crimes: Similar to fraud crimes, white collar crimes also tend to impact residents of multiple states. White collar offenses also typically occur in more than one state, whether through the use of the phone, mail, or internet.
If I Am Accused of a Federal Crime, am I Entitled to a Lawyer?

Yes. If you are accused of a federal crime, you have the right to be represented by an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you by the federal court. This is in accordance with the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to counsel for anyone accused of a crime, regardless of whether it's in state or federal court.

Can I Avoid Self-Incrimination if I Am Accused or Suspected of a Federal Crime?

Yes. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you from self-incrimination, allowing you to remain silent if questioned by law enforcement officers about a suspected federal crime. You also have the right to have an attorney present during questioning to help protect your rights. Further, law enforcement officers must advise of these rights before attempting to interview you about a possible crime. However, you are under no obligation to speak with federal or state law enforcement. In fact, it is generally best to avoid doing so.

How are Federal Crimes Investigated and Prosecuted?

Federal crimes are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). After an investigation, the case is typically handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which will prosecute the case in a federal district court. Convictions in federal court can result in serious penalties, including substantial fines, restitution, probation, parole, and imprisonment.

Are You Under Investigation for a Federal Crime?

If you are under investigation for a federal crime or have been arrested for the same, it is imperative that you reach out to an experienced Charlotte federal crimes attorney. While these federal crimes FAQs are a good place to start, you’ll want to know as much as possible about your case so you can make the best decision on how to proceed. At the Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC, we’re here to help guide you through the process. We offer free consultations, during which we can answer your questions and explain how we can help you defend against the accusations you are facing. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with one of our Charlotte defense lawyers, give us a call at 704-405-2580. You can also reach our Cabarrus County federal criminal defense attorneys at 704-918-4747. We represent clients in the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western District of North Carolina and Middle District of North Carolina.

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