Not every crime committed in Oklahoma is prosecuted by the state. In some cases, the United States government has jurisdiction over a case, which is then prosecuted by U.S. Attorneys in federal court. Often, the cases involve crimes which are in violation of both state and federal law, but because of certain elements of the offense—location or victim, for example—the act becomes a federal crime.
Among the most commonly prosecuted federal crimes are drug crimes, white collar crimes, and sex crimes. When these involve interstate commerce or transportation (including interstate transfer over the internet), federal funds or agency, or occur on federal lands or Indian land (including casinos), they are prosecuted as federal crimes rather than state crimes.
In Oklahoma, there are three federal courthouses:
If you are charged with a federal offense, it is important to find an attorney who is admitted to practice in the federal courts of Oklahoma. Not every Oklahoma lawyer is also a federal criminal lawyer, and finding the right attorney for your case is critical to your successful defense.
In general, drug crimes committed in Oklahoma are prosecuted by the state. In fact, in recent years, the United States Attorney General admitted that mandatory minimum sentences are “draconian,” and he said that the federal government would leave prosecution of “low-level” drug offenders to the states.
But with I-40, a major east-west interstate, and I-35, a major north-south interstate, both traversing Oklahoma, the state is home to numerous drug trafficking busts through highway interdiction.
Additionally, the Oklahoma is home to several tribal lands and national parks. Drug crimes committed at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, the grounds of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, on tribal lands, or at one of the state’s many Indian casinos would be a federal drug crime. This includes drug possession, drug distribution, or drug manufacturing.
Embezzlement and fraud become federal offenses when they involve funds from a federal agency or from an organization receiving federal grants, or when they are committed through interstate communication including mail, wire, electronic communication, and telephone.
Federal white collar crimes include the following:
Penalties for federal white collar crimes often include prison time, fines, restitution, and probation.
Sex crimes are typically handled as state cases, but when they involve transportation of a minor across state lines, human trafficking, travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors, and interstate distribution of child pornography, these offenses are zealously prosecuted by the federal government. Sex crimes such as child molestation occurring on Indian land are also prosecuted as federal crimes.
Under federal law, a minor is considered to be a person under the age of 18, and no minor may legally participate in any commercial sex act, including prostitution, exotic dancing, and pornographic pictures or videos. If a child is transported across the state lines for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex, or if pornographic images of minors are distributed across state lines—including through internet file sharing—any adult who facilitates the transportation or distribution may be charged with a federal sex offense.
It is interesting to note that under the United States’ “sex tourism” laws, a person can be prosecuted for travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct or engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places for traveling to another country to engage in child prostitution or other commercial sex acts with minors. This is true even if child prostitution is legal in the destination country and even though the act (or attempt) did not occur on U.S. soil.
Federal sex crimes carry heavy penalties, including decades in prison and federal sex offender registration.
Certain offenses may be prosecuted under one or more broad statutes that loosely define the act, rather than a specific statute. Mortgage fraud, for example, is often charged as bank fraud. Credit card fraud can be charged as mail fraud or wire fraud if a person mails a fraudulent application or submits such an application online.
One common charge the federal government uses in prosecuting any number of crimes is “conspiracy.” There are specific conspiracy statutes, such as those related to conspiracy to commit drug crimes, but a person accused of planning or attempting any criminal act or scheme can be charged with conspiracy. Under the general conspiracy statute, the penalties for conspiring or attempting to violate federal law are the same as if the person actually went through with the act. Conspiracy charges are one way the federal government prosecutes two or more people for the same offense, even if the act never reaches fruition.
To learn more about federal criminal defense in Oklahoma, or to schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney, call Coventon Criminal Defense at (405) 417-3842.