CHAPTER 5: SUBSTANTIVE CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Table of Contents
5.1 - Sources of Criminal Law and Procedure • 5.2 - Criminal Law - Title 18 • 5.3 - Criminal Procedure - Statutes and Rules • 5.4 - Juvenile Proceedings • 5.5 - Traffic Offenses - Title 42 • 5.6 - Municipal Ordinance Violations • 5.7 - Penalties • 5.8 - Federal Criminal Law • 5.9 - Defenses in Criminal Cases
5.8 FEDERAL CRIMINAL LAW
It is beyond the scope of this manual to give a detailed description of federal criminal law. However, it may be useful to describe a few of the concepts governing federal criminal law so that the reader has a basic understanding of that process.
The overwhelming majority of crimes are prosecuted in state court. The federal system gets involved only if there is federal jurisdiction over the alleged crime. Federal jurisdiction may exist when a crime occurs across interstate lines (e.g., a car is stolen in Kansas and brought to Colorado), occurs on federal property (e.g., a theft at the Denver Mint), is committed against a federal employee, crosses the national border, or in a variety of other limited circumstances. Since the basic burglary or assault or theft does not fit any of these criteria, most crimes are prosecuted in state court.
Federal prosecutions are conducted by the United States Attorney for the particular federal district. The entire state of Colorado is one federal district. The U.S. Attorney is appointed by the President. Federal prosecutions are overseen by United States District Court Judges, who are appointed for life by the President, subject to approval by the United States Senate. Federal magistrates, appointed by the judges of the district, perform many pre-trial functions for the judges. The Federal Public Defender represents those persons charged with federal offenses who cannot afford to hire their own lawyers.
Federal prosecutors use grand juries to investigate suspected criminal behavior far more frequently than do state prosecutors. Federal investigators - the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, etc. - may cooperate with state and local investigators in investigating criminal behavior that may violate both state and federal law.
Federal sentencing is based on the federal sentencing guidelines which evaluate the rime committed by the offender, the offender's criminal record, and several other factors, to generate a range of sentences that may be imposed by the judge. Judges may vary from a prescribed range if they make appropriate findings justifying such a variance.
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