When is fraud a federal charge?

There is a good amount of confusion about the difference between federal and state criminal charges. This is a complicated situation that a single blog post could never explain to you in full.

Part of the problem is that criminal defense is about much more than finding out if you are guilty or not guilty. It is also about determining the authority of the people investigating you, the role of your civil rights and many other factors.

What is fraud?

Backing up for a moment, the Justice Department defines fraud generally as intentional deception. If the authorities believe that you intentionally mislead a person or institution, they might bring charges against you using any evidence that they have.

As you might expect, large, powerful investigation agencies tend to have a large amount of high-quality evidence when they bring these charges. Ironically, since they are pursuing you for fraud, they also might use somewhat deceptive interrogation techniques to persuade you to give up your rights and further incriminate yourself.

When is fraud a federal charge?

The DOJ goes on to say that it is possible for fraud to be either a federal or state matter. It could depend on the following aspects of your alleged crime:

  • Whether you used federal services, such as USPS or Medicare
  • The type of scheme and the amount of money involved
  • The location
  • The method you used and the laws you violated

A final note: If there is any ambiguity about whether your fraud charge fits in state or federal courts, that is likely to be part of the initial stage of your criminal defense strategy. Depending on the facts of your case, one venue might be preferable to the other.