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.