What Kinds of Criminal Cases are Heard in Federal Court?

Our country’s federal district courts are where criminal prosecutions by the United States government, via the Department of Justice or one of the many United States Attorneys’ Offices, are brought and tried.  Prosecutions in the federal courts involve alleged violations of the federal criminal laws.

Although there are thousands of criminal provisions in the United States code, the most common federal offenses involve immigration, fraud, or drug trafficking.  Somewhat less common charges include Bribery, Espionage, Hobbs Act and Racketeering.  Traditional criminal offenses such as murder, theft or burglary are usually charged in state courts.

Most federal criminal cases begin as investigations by a federal agency.  The FBI is the most well-known but almost every federal agency conducts criminal investigations, including those not generally thought of as “law enforcement” such as the EPA or the State Department.  In some cases, the federal government will take over an investigation begun by the local police, as often happens in drug cases.

Are criminal charges from “the Feds” more serious than state criminal charges?  For the most part yes, although there are certainly exceptions.  Federal cases usually involve serious allegations, and carry stiff penalties.

For more information on federal criminal cases, you can visit our website or contact us for a free consultation.


Rodriguez v. US and the limits on police authority to conduct drug dog searches during a traffic stop

The Supreme Court held today that prolonging a traffic stop for purposes of brining out a drug dog is against the Fourth amendment, even when the delay to do the dog sniff is very short.

The officer in the case held the defendant motorist for an additional 7 or 8 minutes on the side of the road after giving him a warning for a traffic offense in order to bring out a drug dog, which found meth in the vehicle.

Under the rationale of the decision, it seems clear that, even if the officer had done his tasks the other way round, there would be a Fourth Amendment violation because the drug dog search would still have prolonged the detention.  However, if there were two officers and one could do the dog search while the other did the paperwork, there would likely be no violation as long as the dog sniffing officer finished first and the paperwork officer did not drag his feet.

Ironically, as the vigorous dissents point out, the officer could arguably have simply arrested the defendant on the traffic offense, did a search of the vehicle incident to arrest (which is a recognized fourth amendment exception), recovered the drugs and been upheld by the courts.

No new health care contractor for DC jail

The Washington Post describes the contentious political process which led to the rejection of a new health services contractor for the detention center.  Here is how the votes broke down:

Ultimately, the deciding vote Tuesday belonged to freshman lawmaker Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), who voted against Corizon along with Mendelson, Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Cheh , Grosso and Silverman.

Council members Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Evans, Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), and Orange voted for Corizon.