Attorney Discusses Federal Jurisdiction v. Colorado State Jurisdiction

As residents of Colorado, we expect that if we are accused of a crime, we will be tried in state or local courts. But the reality is that many parts of Colorado fall under federal jurisdictions and a number of crimes can be and are prosecuted at the federal level. These federal courts tend to be more aggressive in their prosecutions, and the penalties for conviction much more severe.

What Crimes Fall Under Federal Jurisdiction?

Many federal crimes are listed under Title 18 of the United States Code, which is the federal criminal and penal code. Others fall under other titles, such as tax evasion or the possession of weapons banned by the National Firearms Act, which are criminalized in Title 26 of the United States Code.

The agencies that investigate federal offenses include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); Internal Revenue Service (IRS); and the Secret Service. Mail fraud that crosses state lines or involves the United States Postal Service is a federal offense.

Examples of federal crimes include

  • Kidnapping
  • Child pornography
  • Aircraft hijacking
  • Bank robbery
  • Obscenity
  • Tax evasion
  • Counterfeiting
  • Espionage
  • Wiretapping
  • Art theft from a museum
  • Damaging or destroying public mailboxes
  • Immigration offenses

Defending Against Charges of Military Crimes

There are also examples that commonly affect citizens of Colorado. Let’s first look at the number of military bases in Colorado. The state is home to six federal military outposts. Five of them belong to the Air Force, the lone exception being the Army base at Fort Carson. All these facilities are within easy driving distance of Colorado Springs.

Crimes committed on U.S. military facilities by military personal will be prosecuted by military courts, but the jurisdictional regulations are much trickier when a civilian is charged with a crime on a military outpost, or when military personnel are charged with crimes while off base.

Oftentimes the jurisdiction is unclear, and the officers and prosecutors of all concerned parties must negotiate who will take charge of an investigation and where the legal proceedings, if any, will take place. The rules and regulations are such that even a divorce involving military personnel can be complicated.

Crimes in National Parks

Another area where there can be jurisdictional overlap is in national parks and forests. These federal lands are subject to federal laws, but depending on the seriousness of the offense and where it was committed, it might be investigated by a combination of federal officers and state or local police. Tribal lands are also treated as separate jurisdictions.

There is also growing concern surrounding the recent legalization of recreational marijuana. While it may now be legal to buy and consume marijuana in Colorado, it is still a federal crime. Federal prosecution of marijuana violations may increase in the near future and there is no precedent yet for how these cases will be resolved.

If you or someone you love has been charged with committing a crime that might fall under federal jurisdiction, it’s important that you seek out a Colorado Springs criminal lawyer who understands the intricacies of such cases and will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., can provide the guidance you need to make an informed decision. Contact us today at (719) 475-2555 to schedule a free consultation.