Federal Criminal Records

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A surprising number of people are unaware that the United States has basically a two-level criminal justice system. Most crimes are prosecuted at the state or local level, and the party bringing the charges against the defendant is the state. However, the federal government can also bring charges against a defendant. Moreover, if the state and federal government both have jurisdiction over an offense, they can both bring charges against a defendant without violating Double Jeopardy protections, although, for all practical purposes, this is not done unless a trial in one system has failed to lead to a conviction. Therefore, a person’s criminal record can actually be broken down into two smaller components: the state criminal record and the federal criminal record.


In order for the federal government to be able to prosecute a crime, it must have jurisdiction over the crime and over the defendant. If the crime takes place on federal land or involves federal officers, the federal government will have jurisdiction. The federal government also has jurisdiction over immigration and customs violations, which goes well beyond illegal immigration and touches on areas like human trafficking. The federal government has jurisdiction when a defendant has crossed state lines in the commission of the crime; the best-known example of this scenario is when a kidnapper transports a victim over state lines. However, the federal government also has jurisdiction when criminal conduct crosses state lines. This brings almost internet crimes and many fraudulent schemes under the federal umbrella, as well as making it possible for the federal government to prosecute gang members as members of racketeering influenced corrupt organizations whose activities have an interstate impact. Many of these crimes can also be prosecuted at a state level. Therefore, one must keep in mind that a defendant’s federal criminal record will contain information about those crimes prosecuted at a federal level.

Federal criminal records, and other criminal records, may be found in BeenVerified background reports.

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