Federal crimes are those that violate US federal laws. Federal laws are investigated by federal law enforcement and prosecuted by United States attorneys in federal courts with federal judges. While there are over 200 categories filled with violations that are considered federal crimes, here are a few of the most common:


Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence for political purposes. While terrorism can happen across countries, there can also be terrorists within the US that are actually American citizens.


When you use the internet to commit crimes, this is considered cybercrime. You can use the internet for almost any type of crime, making it a federal crime.

Civil Rights Violations

All citizens are equal in the eyes of the law. Violations can occur when you don’t allow certain races or types of people their rights. An example of this is if a person is filling out an application for leasing an apartment or home, and based on their race, the landlord denied them. A civil rights violation like this is considered unlawful, and the landlord can be prosecuted.

White-Collar Crime

This is a financially motivated, non-violent crime committed by business professionals. Examples include wage theft, fraud, bribery, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, racketeering, embezzlement, and money laundering.

Art, Jewelry, Gem Theft

Theft of large ticket items is considered a federal crime. In many cases, these items are costly but priceless.

Bank Robbery

Robbing a bank is a federal crime in which someone or multiple people are stealing from a bank while using force, violence, or threats of violence. This can refer to the robbery of a bank branch or teller.

Drug Offenses

Some drug offenses are considered federal crimes. While many drug offenses are prosecuted at the state level, such as simple possession charges, others are charged at the federal level. These offenders are drug trafficking, manufacturing, and intent to distribute.


Homicide can be prosecuted at both the state and federal level. What determines whether a homicide is prosecuted at the federal level is the certain circumstances surrounding the murder. Killings related to drug trafficking, crossing state borders, occurring on a body of water, and are considered an attack on the US government or judicial system, will all be prosecuted at the federal level. Here are some examples of homicide that can be charged as a federal crime:

  • Murder of an elected official
  • Murder of a federal judge or law enforcement official
  • The killing of an immediate family member of law enforcement officials
  • The killing of a person to influence a court case
  • Killing Committed during a bank robbery
  • Murder related to rape, child molestation, and sexual exploitation of children
  • Murder on a sea vessel
  • Drug-related murders
  • Murder for hire

Kidnapping and False Imprisonment

Kidnapping occurs when the defendant confines another person against their will and chooses to move them or demands a ransom. In some states, asportation, or the movement of the kidnapped person is required to be considered kidnapping, unless ransom and threat of injury occur.

False imprisonment is similar to kidnapping but is a lesser charge with a few differences. In many cases of false imprisonment, there is not an actual intent to kidnap a person, but only to hold them where they are. False imprisonment can occur during bank robberies when a robber may tell people to get down and stay where they are, attempting to restrain them against their will.

Tax Crimes

Tax crimes are typically prosecuted on a federal level. These crimes can range from fraud to evasion. There are two common tax crimes that are prosecuted federally: Failure to File Income Tax Returns: The government must prove that you had a known obligation to file a tax return in order to convict you for failure to file an income tax return.  

Tax Evasion: To convict for tax evasion, the government must prove that you willfully and knowingly evaded the payment of your federal taxes. They can prove this by demonstrating an income item that you hid from the IRS or by proving that you claimed deductions for which you were not entitled.

Organized Crime

Organized crime refers to crimes that are committed and carried out by powerful groups of people. You may think of the mafia when you think of organized crime, but it can include any group of powerful individuals. Organized crime can involve other types of crimes, including racketeering, murder, blackmail, and even petty crimes that can be prosecuted on a federal level when they involve organized crime.

The Statute of Limitations

The period of time that a criminal act can be legally prosecuted is called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations varies from federal crime to federal crime. Certain crimes have no statute of limitations:

When it comes to other federal crimes, most of them must be prosecuted within five years from the time they were committed. However, there are accessions that can be made for certain federal crimes, including child abuse, arson, wartime fraud, or other cases with special circumstances.

The Prosecution of Federal Crimes

Some cases can be prosecuted on either the state or federal level. The decision on which level to prosecute involves several factors, but crimes most often prosecuted in federal court include:

The crimes that can be prosecuted on either federal or state level but are typically prosecuted in state court include crimes against another person such as murder, rape, and assault, and crimes against property including, theft and robbery.

On the other hand, there are cases that can only be prosecuted in federal court:

Customs Offenses

These crimes are breaches or attempted breaches of the statutory or regulatory provisions which are provided in the EAC Customs Management Act.

Federal Tax Crimes

Because federal tax crimes directly involve the federal government, it is in their jurisdiction to prosecute these crimes.


When someone uses spies to obtain political or military information, it is called espionage. This information is important to the wellbeing of all citizens, so espionage is a very serious offense.


Treason is when an individual betrays their country. This can be done by attempting to overthrow the government or plan a murder of an elected official.

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