When news of white-collar criminal charges hit the media, it’s usually because the federal government is leading the prosecution. However, this doesn’t mean that a white-collar criminal charge is automatically a federal offense. Whether a charge is brought at the state or federal level will depend on the circumstances surrounding the alleged illegal activity. Often, the focus is on whether the supposed crime crossed state lines.

Interstate commerce and the authority of the feds

The U.S. Constitution grants the federal government the authority to look into white-collar criminal activity. This authority comes from clauses addressing interstate commerce. Most white-collar crimes involve financial transactions. The financial system is global. It’s easy for alleged white-collar criminal behavior to cross state lines.

For example, let’s say a person embezzled funds in Texas. They deposited those funds in a bank account in California. The transaction crossed state lines. As such, the feds would have the power to investigate and charge the crime at the federal level. If an alleged crime involves the use of wire transfers, the U.S. Post Office, or investors in other states, you can guarantee that the federal government will be paying close attention to the investigation.

Is a federal charge more serious than a state charge?

You need to take any criminal charge seriously. A conviction at either the state or federal level will carry burdensome consequences. The biggest difference is that the federal government has significantly more resources at its disposal. Also, the potential penalties under a federal charge can be more severe than those you might face under a state charge.

Regardless of the type of white-collar crime you are being accused of, it’s essential to work with legal professionals who have the experience to defend you in these types of complex matters effectively. It’s crucial for you to take early action. If you believe that you might be under investigation, seek legal counsel as soon as possible.