Federal Criminal Law Guide

Federal Crime Law Guide

Facing federal criminal charges can be intimidating. Understanding the complexities of federal criminal law is vital for mounting a robust defense. This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth exploration of federal criminal laws and covers critical topics such as statutes, criminal procedures, penalties, and defenses.

If you find yourself facing such charges, remember that you do not have to face them alone. At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, we offer over 60 years of combined criminal defense experience to help you. As board-certified specialists in criminal and criminal appellate law, we are ready to fight to protect your rights. Contact us today for a free legal consultation and allow our team of experienced professionals to advocate for you.

What Makes a Crime Federal?

Certain circumstances convert a local offense into a federal crime, such as:

  • Crosses state lines – If an offense crosses state boundaries, it becomes a federal matter.
  • Takes place on federal land – Crimes you commit on federal property fall under federal jurisdiction.
  • Involves federal employees – Offenses against federal employees can be federal crimes.
  • Violates federal law – A crime that directly violates federal law is a federal offense.

Sources of Federal Criminal Laws

Federal criminal laws stem primarily from Title 18 of the United States Code, which contains many regulations concerning crimes and criminal procedures.

Differences in State and Federal Criminal Laws

How crimes are handled under federal and state laws varies significantly in several ways. Federal crimes involve:

  • United States Attorneys – They represent the federal government in federal cases.
  • Federal law enforcement agencies – Agencies such as the FBI and DEA enforce federal laws.
  • Federal judges – They preside over federal cases, interpreting federal law.
  • Judge determines sentencing – Federal judges have the final say in sentencing, guided by federal sentencing guidelines.
  • Federal sentencing guidelines – They provide structured guidelines for sentencing in federal cases.
  • Federal criminal procedure – Federal court proceedings follow a distinct process, different from state court procedures.

When facing federal charges, you need an attorney with a thorough knowledge of these differences. The experienced defense team at Broden & Mickelson, LLP has the experience and skill you need to fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

Common Federal Criminal Laws Charged in Texas

Several crimes often surface in Texas federal courtrooms, highlighting the broad range of issues under federal jurisdiction. These include:

  • Bank Robbery – Federal law governs crimes involving federally insured banks. Federal authorities can levy charges for any act of violence, threat, or intimidation aimed at obtaining bank property.
  • Child Pornography – Federal laws strictly prohibit any form of child exploitation, including the production, distribution, receipt, or possession of sexually explicit materials involving minors. Offenders face severe penalties, including mandatory minimum sentences.
  • Counterfeiting – This crime involves the creation or distribution of imitation currency, securities, or official government documents with the intent to defraud. Federal laws deal harshly with counterfeiters, aiming to maintain trust in the nation’s financial systems.
  • Cybercrimes – Federal jurisdiction often covers cybercrimes due to their interstate or international nature. This category includes hacking, identity theft, online fraud, and cyberstalking.
  • Drug Trafficking – Federal authorities relentlessly pursue drug traffickers. Those caught manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute large quantities of controlled substances face hefty fines and lengthy prison sentences.
  • Healthcare Fraud – Acts of misrepresentation or deception to defraud healthcare programs, like Medicare, fall under federal jurisdiction. Offenders may include healthcare providers, patients, and other industry participants.
  • Human Trafficking – The recruitment, harboring, transportation, or exploitation of individuals, often for forced labor or sexual exploitation, is a federal offense.
  • Insurance Fraud – Fraudulent claims to insurance companies, especially those involving federal programs, are federal crimes. These include auto, health, medical, and life insurance fraud, among others.
  • Tax Evasion – Intentional avoidance of tax obligations, such as underreporting income, inflating deductions, or hiding money, constitutes tax evasion, a serious federal crime.

These federal offenses carry serious penalties, further emphasizing the importance of skilled legal representation. If you face charges for any of these crimes, contact the seasoned attorneys at Broden & Mickelsen, LLP. We have extensive experience defending our clients against federal criminal charges and will work tirelessly to safeguard your rights.

Stages of a Federal Case

A federal case progresses through several stages, including:

  • Arrest – Authorities take you into custody.
  • Booking and processing – Law enforcement formally records your identification and the reason for your arrest.
  • Arraignment – The court formally charges you, and you enter your plea.
  • Preliminary hearings and grand jury proceedings – A judge or grand jury determines whether sufficient evidence exists for a trial.
  • Trial – The prosecution and defense present their cases to a jury.
  • Sentencing – The judge determines the penalty if the jury finds you guilty.
  • Appeals – You can appeal the verdict or sentence if you have grounds to do so.

Penalties for Federal Criminal Offenses

Federal criminal offenses are classified and punished accordingly. Aggravating and mitigating factors influence the severity of the penalty. Many offenses carry mandatory minimum terms of confinement. Federal sentencing guidelines include recommended penalties, many of which are harsh and involve years of incarceration. The attorneys at Broden & Mickelsen, LLP will fight aggressively to reduce any penalties for federal crimes you may face if you receive a conviction for your charges.

Defenses to Federal Criminal Charges

Federal criminal charges can be contested with defenses such as lack of intent or knowledge, justification or excuse, innocence, alibi, mental defect, and many other possible defenses. Consult an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer to understand what legal defenses may be available to you.

Habeas Corpus in Federal Criminal Cases

Habeas corpus, a foundational principle in American law, enables individuals to challenge their detention. It is available in federal criminal cases under specific circumstances, such as when someone has experienced a violation of their constitutional rights. The “Great Writ” of habeas corpus in the Constitution is meant to protect citizens against indefinite and unlawful imprisonment. In federal cases, habeas corpus petitions must usually be brought within a year of a conviction becoming final.


Understanding federal criminal laws and procedures is vital when you’re facing federal charges. The seasoned lawyers at Broden & Mickelsen, LLP are board-certified specialists in both criminal law and criminal appellate law. We provide comprehensive representation at trial and appellate levels in federal and state cases and have a strong track record of success in post-conviction relief proceedings. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you.