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When Do Federal Authorities Have Jurisdiction in Criminal Matters?

Federal Criminal Investigations

While most criminal matters fall under state jurisdiction, federal authorities step in when a case involves certain types of offenses and circumstances. Generally, these are cases that directly impact national security, transcend state borders or involve federal interests. 

Here is a breakdown of criminal cases within the jurisdiction of federal prosecutors:

  • National security and terrorism — Federal agencies like the FBI and Department of Homeland Security prioritize investigating and prosecuting acts that threaten national security. This encompasses terroristic threats and acts of violence aimed at intimidating the public or coercing government officials. It further includes cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure, financial institutions or government networks. Also covered is espionage, such as stealing classified information or sharing it with unauthorized individuals.
  • Drug trafficking and organized crime — Disrupting large-scale drug operations and dismantling criminal enterprises are federal law enforcement priorities. Federal agencies target transnational drug cartels that smuggle and distribute illegal narcotics. Also prosecuted are money laundering (concealing the source of illegally obtained funds) and racketeering, which covers activities of organized crime syndicates.
  • Financial fraud and white-collar crimes — Federal authorities prosecute securities violations, such as acts of insider trading, manipulating stock prices and issuing fraudulent financial statements. They also prosecute corporate misconduct, such as Ponzi schemes, embezzlement of corporate funds and environmental negligence by corporations. 
  • Human trafficking and immigration violations — Federal agencies address the forced labor, sexual exploitation or illegal organ trade involving human beings. They also prosecute individuals and groups involved in the illegal transportation of people or goods across borders. Federal jurisdiction applies to violations of immigration laws, including document forgery and human rights abuses of immigrants.
  • Public corruption and bribery —Federal authorities prosecute officials involved in bribery, extortion and abuse of power, along with other breaches of public trust. 
  • Civil rights violations — Certain state-level crimes can constitute federal offenses if they violate the civil rights of individuals. These include hate crimes, which consist of violence or threats motivated by a person’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability. Also covered are cases of police misconduct, namely those involving law enforcement officials’ use of excessive force or unlawful detainment.
  • Environmental crimes — As part of environmental law enforcement, federal authorities prosecute illegal dumping of hazardous waste, exceeding air or water pollution limits and damaging protected ecosystems. The also prosecute wildlife trafficking: illegal trade in endangered and protected species.
  • Interstate crimes and organized gang activity — Criminal activities that cross state borders or involve criminal organizations are subject to federal jurisdiction. These include violations of RICO and other federal laws targeting organizations involved in extortion, money laundering and interstate illegal activities such as drug trafficking operations that span multiple states. Federal enforcement efforts are also directed towards dismantling the activities of transnational or multi-state criminal gangs.
  • Cybercrime and intellectual property crime — Federal authorities prosecute hacking (gaining unauthorized access to computer systems or networks for illicit purposes), identity theft (stealing personal information to commit fraud or other crimes) and intellectual property offenses (including trade secret theft, production and trafficking of counterfeit products and infringement of copyrights). 

At the Law Offices of David Jay Glassman, we defend individuals charged with federal offenses throughout New Jersey. Our firm maintains office locations in Marlton, Hackensack, Newark and New Brunswick. To arrange for a confidential legal consultation, call 866-221-1270 or contact us online.