Breaking the law may mean a trip to a state court, but not always. Sometimes the federal government looks at a crime committed in Mississippi or another state and decides that it must try someone in a federal court.
While some crimes are exclusively federal crimes, other offenses can overlap between state and federal law. The FBI describes some situations in which a state crime could become a federal one.
Federal robbery and murder
The fifty states usually define crimes regarding robbery and theft. It is when someone robs federal property that the federal government steps in and prosecutes. For example, federal laws make it a crime to rob a bank that contains deposits that a federal agency has insured.
Additionally, people can face federal charges if they rob someone who works for the federal government. The same principle applies to murder. A person could face federal murder charges for killing a federal government employee who is engaging in government duties.
Crimes on federal property
In addition to robbing a federal bank, committing any crime on a federal property could invite federal prosecution. Some examples of federal property include a military base, a national wildlife refuge, public domain land, or a national park.
Crimes crossing state lines
Some state laws, such as fraud and drug possession, invite federal prosecution if they involve activities that cross state lines. A Mississippi fraudster may end up in federal court by swindling someone in a nearby state. A drug user could incur federal charges by trafficking in drugs from another state.
While federal crimes differ, they tend to involve harsher penalties than state court convictions. For this reason, it is important to understand all the facts involved in a case to know if the federal government has any interest in bringing charges.