Many Texans are unclear about the differences between state crimes and federal crimes. State crimes violate Texas laws, while federal crimes violate specific federal statutes. When you are charged with a crime in Texas, Texas law enforcement will investigate your case and prosecute you. On the contrary, federal government agencies like the FBI and DEA investigate federal crimes. Federal prosecutors choose whether or not to bring federal criminal charges. Federal crimes often carry heavier penalties than state crimes, but not always.
Drug crimes are prosecuted at both the state and federal levels. When FBI agents arrest a suspect, the matter will become part of the federal court system. At the same time, local Texas law enforcement agents can cooperate with FBI agents. Just because you are under investigation by Texas law enforcement does not mean you will avoid facing federal drug crimes charges.
The federal government has extensive assets when it comes to investigating and prosecuting defendants for drug crimes. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (AFT), and the U.S. Border Patrol are all actively involved in investigating drug crimes. Many federal drug crimes charges involve drug trafficking. Typically, if a defendant is caught with a small amount of illegal drugs, they will face state charges.
When defendants are found with significant amounts of drugs, federal prosecutors will often charge them with more serious drug trafficking offenses. Crimes involving drug transactions that cross the Texas border are typically charged as federal crimes. Should a federal prosecutor allege that the defendant distributed large amounts of drugs or manufactured drugs, the federal government may take over its prosecution.
As with drug crimes, weapons-related charges can be tried at the state and federal levels. In many cases, when a drug dealer faces drug charges at the federal level, he or she will also face federal weapons charges. One of the most commonly charged federal gun crimes is “felon in possession of a firearm.” This crime is a class C felony that carries a federal prison sentence of up to 10 years. When the defendant has a prior violent crime or drug conviction on his criminal record, the penalties for this crime increased significantly.
Additionally, when a defendant is convicted of “use of a weapon in furtherance of a crime of violence or drug trafficking felony,” he or she will face consecutive mandatory minimum prison sentences. Keep in mind that the defendant does not need to be holding a firearm in his or her hand when arrested. Even if a firearm is nearby when drug trafficking happens, the federal government will almost certainly charge the defendant with a federal weapons crime. The federal government defines the term ‘weapon’ broadly, and ammunition can sometimes be considered a weapon for the purposes of charging suspects.
When it comes to Federal Gun crimes, sentencing is complicated. The federal government recognizes multiple enhancements that will result in the potential sentence becoming more serious. These enhancements include possession of a stolen gun, obliteration of the gun’s serial number, and possession of a gun with a large capacity magazine, or a magazine that has been altered. Additionally, when the defendant already has prior criminal convictions for violent crimes that are drug offenses, they face enhanced sentencing.
White Collar Crimes
The FBI investigates white-collar crimes. White-collar crimes typically involve fraud or financial crimes, and they are usually not violent. Federal white-collar crimes include all of the following:
- Bank and check fraud
- Healthcare fraud
- Mail and wire fraud
- Money laundering
- Mortgage fraud
- Securities fraud
- Tax evasion
Many people have the misconception that only serious criminals face white collar crimes charges. On the contrary, everyday people can be charged for fraud. For example, if you forget to pay your taxes for a few years, and you are charged with tax evasion, you face serious consequences. If you are convicted of tax evasion, you face up to five years in federal prison for each prosecutable offense and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines on top of paying all of your back taxes and associated penalties.
Another commonly charged white-collar crime is mortgage fraud. Mortgage fraud happens when someone provides false information or fake records to secure a mortgage loan to purchase a home or commercial property. The FBI is continuously investigating income fraud, appraisal fraud, and fraudulent disclosures. The penalties for mortgage fraud are serious and include jail time.
Immigration is a hotly debated topic in Texas and throughout the United States, especially during this election year. Many people are unaware that a significant number of federal prosecutions involve immigration charges. Common immigration charges include overstaying a visa, entering the United States illegally, or those who are involved in smuggling immigrants across the border. Non-U.S. citizens can be charged with many different types of immigration crimes.
If you have been charged with an immigration crime, it is essential that you speak with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. If you are convicted of the crime, you could not only be required to serve time in prison, but the conviction could negatively affect your chances of becoming a U.S. citizen, as well as hinder your employment and housing options.
Contact an Experienced Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you or your loved one have been charged with a federal crime in Texas, you need a defense lawyer familiar with federal court trials. Not all criminal defense lawyers in Texas have the experience necessary to defend a client charged with federal crimes successfully. At the Law Offices of Steven Jumes, our defense lawyers have the skills and experience needed to assertively and persuasively defend your rights throughout the entire Federal Criminal process. Contact our Fort Worth Law Firm today to schedule your initial consultation.