So, What Exactly Are Federal Crimes?
Federal crimes consist of offenses that are committed against existing federal laws in the United States. For example,robbing a bank whose assets are insured by the FDIC would be a federal crime, since the FDIC is a federal agency. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, more than 5,500 bank crimes were reported in the year 2011, resulting in a total loss of over $38 million.
Another example of a federal crime would be a criminal action that takes place on property owned by the federal government, such as a U.S. national park. Driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while on federal property would be treated as a federal crime.
The transport and sale of illegal substances over state lines would also qualify as a federal crime. These crimes, which are typically investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), accounted for over 25,000 federal criminal cases in the U.S. in 2011. 15 percent of these cases involved the use of weapons during the commission of a drug crime.
Federal crimes would also involve violations of the U.S. Constitution. Since the majority of criminal actions are governed by state laws, however, most offenses are not tried as federal crimes.
How Are Federal Crimes Different than State Crimes?
There are a few key differences between federal crimes and state crimes. These differences are generally reflected in:
- The location of the trial
- The prosecuting attorney
- The injured party
- The type of prison where a convicted criminal must serve his or her sentence
Federal crimes are tried in federal courts by federal prosecutors. In these crimes, the United States government serves as the injured party. If an individual is found guilty of a federal crime, he or she must serve time in a federal penitentiary. In the fiscal year 2011, the United States Sentencing Commission, which sentences convicted federal criminals, issued sentencing recommendations for more than 86,000 cases.
State crimes, on the other hand, fall within the jurisdiction of state laws and are commonly tried in state courts. Since many crimes are offenses against both state and federal laws, either a state or a federal court could potentially hear the case. In the majority of cases, these crimes are referred to state or local courts.
Types of Federal Crimes
In the United States, many crimes involve violence or victimization. Each year, millions of violent crimes occur in the country, some of which are tried as federal crimes. In the year 2012, more than 6.8 million violent crimes were committed in the U.S. Reporting on those crimes, the Federal Bureau of Justice has provided the following statistics:
- 20 percent involved the use of weapons
- The overall violent crime rate was 22.6 per 1,000 persons
- 84 percent of the violent crimes were assaults
In addition, over 19 million property crimes were committed that year, including household and vehicle theft. The property crime rate in the U.S. for 2012 was 155.8 per 1,000 households.
Federal crimes may also involve Internet crimes or financial crimes. In 2012, the U.S. government received more than 289,000 complaints of Internet crime, resulting in a total loss of more than $525 million. Federal Internet crimes typically include:
- Real estate fraud
- Romance scams
- Auto fraud
Consumers also complained of Internet ransomware schemes, in which their computers were infected by a computer virus that demanded payment for its removal. In addition, some consumers fell victim to money-lending scams. These scams are operated by fraudsters who send emails requesting loans and then fail to repay the balances.
Federal financial crimes that commonly affect U.S. citizens often include:
- Corporate fraud
In 2011 alone, 241 individuals were convicted of corporate fraud in the United States. The FBI, which takes the lead in investigating many federal financial crimes, also targeted insider trading, pyramid schemes, and Ponzi schemes that year, securing over $8.8 billion in restitution payments to victims.
Health care fraud is also an issue in many parts of the United States. As a federal crime, healthcare fraud falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. In the year 2013, the department conducted over 2,000 health care fraud investigations involving more than 3,500 individuals. During the same year, the Department of Justice received over $2.6 billion in fines and judgments from cases of health care fraud.
Of these health care fraud investigations, more than 1,150 were related to abuse of either Medicare or Medicaid. Funds that are seized following a Medicare crime are deposited into a special account used to pay for health care fraud investigations by the Department of Justice.
Most Common Federal Crimes by Texas Cities
In 2013, the most common federal crimes in Texas cities involved property crime and assault. In particular, the following Texas cities reported high rates of federal crime:
- San Antonio
In Houston, for example, there were 10,106 violent crimes reported, as well as 54,719 property crimes. Austin citizens reported 16,334 cases of theft and 1,041 cases of aggravated assault during the year.
In Dallas, the most common violent crime was robbery, with 2,082 cases reported. The city also had a total of 3,514 motor vehicle thefts that year. San Antonio had a total of 2,545 cases of aggravated assault and 27,747 property crimes in 2013.
The types of federal crimes that occur in the United States each year range from financial frauds to violent assaults. While consumers and individuals have suffered losses from these types of federal crimes, law enforcement agencies have also stepped up their efforts to hold people and companies responsible for their crimes.