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 offences.

In the United States, a federal crime or federal offense is an act that is 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, under which most of the crimes committed in the United States are prosecuted. The situation, regarding prosecution of crimes, is similar in Australia.

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.

The Canadian Constitution Act, 1867 grants that country's Parliament the exclusive power to legislate criminal laws (see also Criminal Code of Canada). This includes many acts (such as vehicular homicide and rape) that, if they did not cross US state or territory lines, would otherwise be prosecuted, in the US, at the state or local level.

Numerous federal agencies have been granted powers to investigate federal offenses to include, but not limited to, the ATF, DEA, FBI, ICE, IRS, and the Secret Service.

Mail fraud which crosses state lines or involves the (national) United States Postal Service is a federal offense. An equivalent offence, 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, tax evasion, counterfeiting, art theft from a museum,[2] damaging or destroying public mailboxes, immigration offenses, and since 1965, assassinating the President or Vice President, although these were not made federal crimes until after President John F. Kennedy's assassination.[3]

In drug-related federal offenses mandatory minimums can be enforced. A mandatory minimum is a federally regulated minimum sentence for offenses of certain drugs.

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." 

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