When a person is charged with a felony criminal offense, it is often clear whether it is a state or a federal offense. For example, on the one hand, if a person violates a state law of Virginia and does so completely within the bounds of the state—such as robbery in a downtown Richmond retail establishment—that crime typically will be charged under Virginia state law. On the other hand, if a person is accused of burglary or robbery inside a federal building in the state of Virginia, such as a federal courthouse in Richmond, then that felony will typically be charged as a federal offense.
However, in some cases when a person is accused of a felony crime, both the state of Virginia and the federal government have jurisdiction. Or, it may be unclear to the person accused of the crime whether they are facing state or federal charges. We want to provide you with some more information about scenarios in which a crime usually will be charged as a federal felony and to emphasize the importance of having an experienced Virginia felony criminal defense attorney on your side under any circumstances in which you are facing felony charges.
Federal Agency Has Been Investigating the Offense
When a federal agency has been the primary law enforcement agency investigating a crime, anyone who is charged often will face federal criminal charges. For instance, if the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have primarily been the agency investigating a felony, the crime is likely to be prosecuted as a federal offense.
Crime Occurred on Federal Property
As we mentioned, if a crime occurs on federal property, it will often be charged as a federal offense. To return to the example we gave above, if a person is alleged to have broken into a federal courthouse and to have stolen property, that person could face burglary charges under Virginia state law. However, since the crime occurred on federal property, that person is likely to face federal burglary charges instead.
Offense Involved Crossing State Lines
If the crime involved the crossing of state lines, federal authorities may have jurisdiction and may decide to prosecute the case. For example, if a person is alleged to have committed a burglary in Richmond (Code of Virginia § 18.2-91), that offense likely will be charged under Virginia state law. However, if the defendant is alleged to have been part of a burglary group that operated in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and several other states, then the defendant may face federal burglary charges.
Federal Government Has an Interest in Prosecuting the Case
There are numerous reasons in which federal authorities may have an interest in prosecuting a case. Generally speaking, if the federal government has a particular interest in prosecuting a felony, it will often have jurisdiction instead of the state of Virginia.
Contact a Virginia Felony Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are facing felony charges in Virginia, it is essential to have an experienced Richmond felony criminal defense lawyer on your side to help you beat the charges. Conviction of a felony offense can result in years in prison, substantial fines, and a lifetime of dealing with a criminal record. Contact Del Rio Law, PLLC to learn more about how we can help with your felony criminal defense in Virginia.