What are Federal Interstate Crimes?
There are many different types of state and federal crimes. Most are only charged at the state level, but when a crime crosses state lines or international borders, it could be filed as a crime under different federal laws.
The United States Congress has also passed some federal laws prohibiting interstate crimes that don't cross state lines, which under the commerce clause permits them to pass laws that affect interstate commerce.
Numerous types of crimes can be filed by a federal prosecutor, including a category known as “interstate crimes,” which generally crosses a state line.
Readers unfamiliar with how crimes are charged must understand that federal criminal cases differ significantly from state cases. This is one of the primary reasons you need a qualified defense lawyer to represent you in a federal courtroom.
Federal crimes are prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys and primarily investigated by federal law enforcement agencies, such as the following:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),
- United States Department of Justice (DOJ),
- Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC),
- Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE),
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Any person indicted for a federal offense will appear in a District Court before a federal judge. Therefore, you need to consult with a federal criminal defense lawyer to have the best chance at a favorable outcome.
What Are Examples of Interstate Crimes?
Mail fraud under 18 U.S.C. 341 or wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. 343 occurs when somebody uses the postal mail service or wire communication to commit fraud and typically involves some deception.
Wire fraud is any fraudulent electronic communication activity. This statute provides punishment for any person that devises a scheme to defraud or obtain money or property using pretenses by transmitting wire communication in interstate commerce.
The main element of the crime of wire fraud is a fraudulent scheme and using interstate electronic communications to execute it or attempt the illegal scheme.
Human trafficking under 18 U.S.C. 1581 – 1597 is a serious crime involving transporting people across international borders for labor services, usually involving sexual-related activity through coercion, force, or fraud. In other words, human trafficking is typically a form of sex trafficking.
The Mann Act is the federal statute prohibiting prohibits human trafficking. In addition, it's a federal crime to transport people across state lines for immoral reasons.
The federal government passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to help protect people from trafficking by imposing severe penalties for anyone convicted.
Victims usually are forced to engage in prostitution to pay an alleged debt from crossing the border, and drug cartels are highly active in sex trafficking. The victims are generally underage girls coerced to work in a brothel.
Drug trafficking under 21 U.S.C. 841 typically involves taking illegal drugs across state or international borders. In addition, this federal statute covers illegally making, distributing, importing, or exporting controlled substances.
Many people don't know that a drug crime they considered minor can turn into a federal drug trafficking case.
If you are convicted of drug trafficking under federal law, you face harsh legal consequences, including mandatory minimum sentences for different quantities of drugs that were trafficked.
What are the Penalties?
Interstate crimes will always depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. However, the possible penalties for these interstate crimes include the following:
- A human trafficking conviction carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years for many offenses, such as forced labor, while sex trafficking carries up to 30 years in federal prison. In addition, if sex trafficking involves sexual assault or forces the victim into sexual-related activity, they could be sentenced to life in prison.
- A conviction for federal drug trafficking carries a mandatory minimum sentence depending on the type of drug, amount, and other circumstances. The compulsory standard minimums are five, ten, and 20 years if a death or serious injury occurs.
- A mail or wire fraud conviction carries up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The fine can be increased if a financial institution is involved in the offense. For example, if wire fraud impacted a financial institution, such as an illegal banking scheme, you could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.
What Are the Legal Defenses?
The federal prosecutor must prove that a defendant acted purposely and with knowing intent. Perhaps you didn't know you were involved in human trafficking, and a lack of intent argument could be made.
Perhaps the alleged crime didn't cross state lines and should not be charged at the federal level, but you could face state charges that carry lesser penalties.
If you were charged with a federal wire offense, perhaps we can reasonably argue there was a lack of intent. But, on the other hand, maybe we could present evidence that you were an unwitting participant in an unlawful scheme and that there was never an intent to defraud someone.
Perhaps we can show that the police violated your Constitutional rights during the investigation. If successful after filing a motion to suppress, the seized evidence will be removed from the case.
If you face interstate charges under federal law, we will review all the details to develop an appropriate defense strategy. Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles, California. You can contact us for a case review by phone or using the contact form.