Types of Offenses


Felonies

The criminal justice system of the United States classifies offenses into three groups. The most serious type of offense is felonies. Felonies are certain crimes that the legislator and the public deem particularly offensive. For that reason, felonies carry a minimum incarceration of more than one year in prison. If convicted, defendants often face many years in prison. In some cases, felony convictions mean life in prison without parole, or even execution.

Overview of Federal Felonies

VIOLENT CRIMES FRAUD CHARGES DRUG CHARGES OTHER
Bank robbery Bank fraud Conspiracy to distribute Obstruction of justice
Child pornography Bankruptcy fraud Trafficking
Extortion Bribery
Felon with firearms Counterfeiting
Gang activity Espionage embezzlement
Kidnapping Forgery
Possession of illegal weapon Mail fraud
Money laundering
Racketeering
Securities fraud
Theft of trade secrets
Medicare fraud
Wire fraud tax evasion
State prosecutors are employed by the state. Most state laws classify felonies into different categories. For example, Texas distinguishes between a felony in the first degree (Tex. Penal Code Sect. 12.32) and a felony in the second degree (Tex. Penal Code Sect. 12.33), third degree felony (Tex. Penal Code 12.34), and state jail felony (Tex. Penal Code 12.35). The higher the degree of a felony, the higher the expected penalty.

https://www.oag.state.tx.us/AG_Publications/pdfs/penalcode.pdf

Overview of State Felonies - Classifications in Texas

First Degree Second Degree Third Degree State Jail Felony
Location
Examples
Punishment
A special category of felonies on both, the federal and the state level, are so-called capital crimes. Capital crimes are punishable by death. Despite the controversy surrounding the execution of a human being for a crime, the death penalty has been upheld as constitutional in the federal judiciary system, despite some exceptions for juvenile offenders and people with mental incapacities. Outside these rare exceptions, defendants charged with a capital crime in federal court can lose their life. The states are largely independent in their legislation. Currently, most states allow the death penalty with Texas being the state with the highest execution rate among all states.

Capital Crimes. A special category of felonies on both the federal and the state level are so-called capital crimes. Capital crimes are not considered a separate group of crimes, but a sub-category of felonies. Capital crimes are punishable by death.

Despite the controversy surrounding the execution of a human being in vindication for a committed crime, the death penalty has been upheld as constitutional in the federal judiciary system — with some existing exceptions in the context of, for example, juvenile offenders and mentally ill offenders.

Outside these rare exceptions, defendants charged with a capital crime in federal court can lose their life. Currently, most states allow the death penalty with Texas being the state with the highest execution rate among all states.

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are crimes that carry less severity than felonies. By definition, all misdemeanors have a maximum sentence of twelve months or less in jail. Driving under influence is a classic example of a misdemeanor.

What is important to know about misdemeanors is that sometimes a crime that is classified as misdemeanor can turn into a felony charge. For example, while assault and battery are typical misdemeanors, the adding of a weapon (e.g. knife, baseball bat) or a change of circumstances (e.g. beating of a student by a teacher), will raise the criminal level to felony charges. Another example are DUI offenses. While DUI offenses normally constitute misdemeanors, repeated DUIs or DUIs that result in bodily harm of other people may elevate a misdemeanor to a felony charge.

Infractions. The third category of offenses beside felonies and misdemeanors are called infractions. Sometimes known as petty crimes, infractions are punishable by fines, not by jail. Classic examples are speeding tickets, stop sign violations, and public intoxication. Just like in the context of felonies and misdemeanors, infractions can rise to constitute misdemeanors, when, for example, running a stop sign results in bodily harm for others.

Federal v. State Prosecution


A federal prosecutor, also known as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA), charges those defendants that are accused of having violated a federal statute, such as mail fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, or conspiracy to manufacture drugs.

Although employed by the Department of Justice, each AUSA is assigned to and located in one of the 94 federal districts that currently exist throughout the United States. While AUSAs charge defendants and indict people, often times, federal agencies prepare indictments by investigating and raiding individuals and their homes or offices. The most frequently involved federal law enforcement agencies are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. These agencies are often at the forefront of a federal criminal investigation and often execute arrest or search warrants on behalf of and with federal prosecutors.

State prosecutors represent the people of the state and they work on behalf of the State Attorney General. State prosecutors only prosecute state offenses. Typically, state prosecutors represent the state in all proceedings before courts of criminal appeals and assist district or county attorneys. Classic state law enforcement agencies are the state department of insurance (fraud unit), the state department of criminal justice, and the department of public safety.

Punishment & Sentencing


Defendants convicted of federal charges will face sentencing before a federal judge. Federal judges are members of federal district courts. Currently, there are 94 federal districts in the United States, each consisting of several federal judges.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

When it comes to sentencing, federal judges often use the so-called Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are a comprehensive recommendation of sentences assigned to each federal offense. The Guidelines are meant to produce uniform sentences, but were declared to be only advisory and not mandatory in the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision of United States v. Booker. Since that decision, federal judges are required to consider the Guidelines when determining a sentence, but they are no longer required to issue sentences within the guidelines.

Federal Prisons

After sentencing, federal defendants will serve their sentence in a federal prison. Federal prisons are divided into United States Penitentiaries (USPs), Federal Correctional Institutions (FCIs), Federal Prison Camps (FPCs), Federal Administrative Facilities, and Federal Correctional Complexes (FCCs).
Security Inmates Texas locations California locations
United states penitentiary Supermax & high Most dangerous Beaumont Altwater
Lompoc
Victorville
Federal correctional institution Medium & low Mixed Bastrop
Beaumont
Big spring
Fort worth
Jesup
Seagoville
Texarkana
Three rivers
Dublin
Herlong
Lompoc
Mendota
Terminal Island
Victorville
Federal prison camp Minimum Re-socialization Bryan None
Federal administrative facility Mixed Mentally ill, violent Houston
Carswell
San Diego
Los Angeles
Federal correctional complexes Mixed Mixed Beaumont Lompoc
Victorville
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