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When can a person be charged with a crime in federal court?

On Behalf of | Sep 11, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Though most people arrested in Northern Kentucky get charged under commonwealth law, federal law also applies sometimes. Because federal charges tend to be more serious and carry harsher sentences, it is critical to understand when you might be facing them.

Jurisdiction means the power of a court over an individual. Federal courts generally have jurisdiction in one of two ways.

Commerce Clause

The Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress broad powers to pass criminal laws that involve interstate activity. “Interstate commerce” is interpreted broadly. For example, someone who purchases a large quantity of drugs in Indiana, transports them to Kentucky and sells them there could be subject to federal drug charges. The use of the telephone lines and the internet can also open the door to federal-level charges, even if the defendant was contacting other people in the same state.

Subject matter jurisdiction

The federal system claims jurisdiction over certain types of crimes and civil matters. For example, white-collar charges like embezzlement and wire fraud usually end up in federal court. Federal courts also exclusively handle bankruptcy cases.

Protect yourself no matter what

If the accusations against you are fairly minor, you probably won’t have to worry about going to federal court. But that does not mean you can ignore the charges. Your best bet is to work with a criminal defense attorney experienced with both state and federal criminal law. That way, you will have a defense strategy and be ready to go to trial (if necessary) no matter what.