If you find yourself under investigation, or under arrest, for a federal crime, and you have no previous experienced with the criminal justice system, you may be feeling frightened and overwhelmed. The federal criminal justice system can be intimidating for the uninitiated. A better understanding of who investigates federal crimes as well as who is responsible for a federal crimes prosecution may help you to feel a bit more empowered under the circumstances.
The United States Justice System
The United States operates under what is referred to as a federalist system of government. That means that we have a strong central government (the federal government) along with numerous smaller, semi-autonomous governments (the individual state governments). Consequently, we also have a federal judicial system and individual state judicial systems. It also means that both the federal government and the state governments may enact and enforce laws. The U.S. Constitution serves as the highest law in the land. Neither the federal government nor a state government may enact a law that violates the U.S. Constitution.
Who Investigates Federal Crimes?
Unlike state, county, and local law enforcement agencies whose officers basically investigate any crime reported, many of the federal government’s law enforcement agencies are et up to have a relatively narrow sphere of jurisdiction. In other words, specific law enforcement agencies investigate specific types of crimes. Some of the more commonly recognized “alphabet agencies,’ so named because they are routinely referred to by their initials, include:
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) – the responsibilities of the ATF include the investigation and prevention of federal offenses involving the unlawful use, manufacture, and possession of firearms and explosives; acts of arson and bombings; and illegal trafficking and tax evasion of alcohol and tobacco products.
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – DEA is charged with combating drug smuggling and distribution within the United States. It is also the lead agency for domestic enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – the FBI is responsible for counter-terrorism, counterintelligence, and has jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crimes. The CIA operates and investigates outside of the United States while the FBI operates inside the U.S.
- S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – ICE is tasked to enforce the immigration laws of the United States and to investigate criminal and terrorist activity of foreign nationals residing in the United States.
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – IRS is responsible for investigating alleged violations of the U.S. tax laws and otherwise enforcing the Internal Revenue Code.
- Secret Service (SS) – the primary responsibility of the Secret Service is to protect the country’s leaders from harm.
Who Is Responsible for Federal Crimes Prosecution?
Federal crimes are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Each state has at least one U.S. Attorney’s Office. The State of Tennessee has three, located in Memphis, Chattanooga, and Nashville. The U.S. Attorney’s Office operates in much the same way as the county Prosecuting Attorney’s Office does in any given county. Most cases are actually handled by an Assistant U.S. Attorney, just as state-level cases are prosecuted by deputy prosecuting attorneys.
Federal crimes are prosecuted in federal court. Although federal court can be a bit more intimidating, and often operates more formally than local courtrooms, the prosecution process itself is effectively the same in federal court as it is in county court. If you are convicted, however, you will be sentenced using the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. If you have reason to believe you are a suspect in a federal crime, or you have already been arrested and charged with a federal crime, you need to consult with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney right away to make sure your rights are protected.
Contact a Tennessee Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have additional questions about the investigation, arrest, or prosecution of a federal crime in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee federal criminal defense attorney immediately. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.