What constitutes a federal offense?

police car enroute

Is a federal offense a felony?

Arrest and the legal process that follows can be confusing and frightening. When the arrest and legal process are federal offense charges, it can become even more so. To the everyday person, what dictates a federal offense versus a misdemeanor offense is often unclear. What dictates a federal offense and felony charges can be determined by many factors, leaving the general public with many concerns and questions. Each citizen is allowed legal representation and for good reason. The aid, guidance, and representation of an experienced lawyer is the best way to navigate through this process.

A felony is defined by the federal government as a crime that is punishable by death or more than one year of incarceration. If the punishment is for 1 year or less, it is a misdemeanor. The potential sentence determines the classification. As such, a crime is classified as a felony even if the sentence handed down is less than a year of imprisonment. Each state, the context or seriousness of crimes may determine their classification.

What is classified as a federal offense?

In America, a federal offense is when one has committed a crime and is prosecuted by federal criminal law boundaries as a replacement for of state criminal law. Some examples of federal offenses would be:  

  • Aircraft hijacking
  • Animal cruelty
  • Assassination of U.S. President/Vice President
  • Bank robbery
  • Car jacking
  • Child pornography
  • Computer fraud
  • Counterfeiting
  • Credit card fraudulent use
  • Electoral fraud
  • Espionage act
  • Identity theft
  • Kidnapping
  • Lynching
  • Mail fraud
  • Museum art theft
  • Obscenity
  • Tax evasion
  • Wiretapping

Additional federal offenses not listed above include hate crimes of federal nature, Federal Racketeering, and Corrupt Organizations Act, Patriot Act violations, Damaging/Obliterating public mailboxes, and immigration offenses.

Additionally, mandatory minimums for a federal offense that are drug-related could face enforcement of the implications set by federal law, such as the manufacture, sale, import/export, trafficking, or cultivating illegal controlled substances over state lines or American national borders. Minimum sentencing is mandatory for offenses involving certain drugs.

What kind of cases go to federal court?

Usually, if a case involves the United States, it will fall into the federal court system. Examples of those cases would be any that involve federal law, the United States Constitution, bankruptcy if several states were involved or any crime that has taken place on land owned by the federal government.

A case may go to federal if it falls within the jurisdiction of the federal courts, such as federal tax law. Typically, a case will not be brought into another court after being introduced in one system.

What happens when a case goes federal?

A federal criminal case will go through three steps: 

  • Pretrial – the person is charged and is either imprisoned, released (with or without conditions), the United States is required to provide evidence, and any pretrial motions are filed at this time.
  • Trial or Plea – at this stage, the accused pleads guilty and the case then moves on to sentencing. If the accused refuses a plea deal, a trial is scheduled. If the jury rules the accused is guilty, then sentencing takes place. Occasional, rare cases, the accused’s lawyer will discuss the case being dismissed with the prosecutor.
  • Sentencing – this process gets complicated. Read further to see the classifications for Felony and Misdemeanor charges and the possible sentencing.  

What is the minimum sentence for a federal crime?

The sentencing of federal offenses has minimum sentence mandates of five years, ten years, or life imprisonment without parole. The most committed federal offenses that fall into the mandatory minimum sentencing is:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Drug importation and exportation
  • Weapons crimes
  • Arrival crimes
  • Aggravated identity theft
  • Sex offenses and child pornography

Arrests, conviction, and sentencing are confusing processes. When it falls into the Federal courts, it becomes more confusing and it is to the person(s) involved to retain the best attorney possible to get them through the process with results that are in their best interest.

The following are federal offense classes and misdemeanor offense classes sentencing that can be handed down by the judge on jury recommendations. The lawyer for a defendant facing these sentences can appeal the ruling, file for retrial, or other motions within the federal or misdemeanor guidelines for the crime.


  • Class A: Life imprisonment or death
  • Class B: 25 years and up
  • Class C: 10 years to 25 years
  • Class D: 5 years to 10 years
  • Infraction: Maximum 5 days


  • Class A: 6 months to 1 year
  • Class B: 30 days to 6 months
  • Class C: 5 days to 30 days
  • Fines, probation and other criteria may be assigned by the judge as well, determined case-by-case and accused criminal history.

Being arrested, charged, and sentencing no matter the severity is a scary and unsettling situation to be in, for the accused and their family.  If you find yourself in this situation, it is in your own best interest to obtain a lawyer that is experienced and specialized in the charges you’re facing. Call 866-830-2663 today if you have federal offenses in Wichita, KS and need bail.