In the complex world of criminal justice, jurisdiction decides which legal body, either state or federal, will prosecute a crime. While most consider murder one of the most severe crimes, state courts usually handle these cases.
Yet, specific situations can move a murder case from Texas state to federal jurisdiction. To understand how the legal system works, you must know when and why state powers might yield to federal powers.
Criteria that make a murder a federal charge
The Texas Attorney General reported that in 2021, there were 2,064 in the state. However, not all of those cases were federal. Here are some criteria that could cause a murder charge to become a federal one:
- Crossing state lines: A murder becomes a federal crime if it involves crossing state boundaries. For example, if someone kidnaps another person in Texas and then commits murder in a different state, federal authorities will step in. The same holds true if someone transports the victim’s body across state boundaries after the crime.
- Killing federal officials: Anyone who kills or tries to kill specific federal officials, such as judges or agents of federal law enforcement agencies, will face federal charges.
- Murders on federal property: Texas, like many states, contains areas that federal law governs, including military bases, national parks or federal buildings. Murders that occur in these places fall under federal jurisdiction.
- Terrorism and hate crimes: Federal authorities handle murders that form part of larger domestic or international terrorism acts. Likewise, if someone commits murder out of bias against race, religion, ethnicity or nationality, it can lead to federal prosecution.
Additionally, if a murder significantly affects interstate commerce, it may fall under federal jurisdiction. For example, if someone murders a truck driver moving goods between states, federal agencies might intervene.
Consequences of facing a federal murder charge
When federal authorities handle a murder charge, the outcomes and procedures can differ from those at the state level. Federal courts have their own set of guidelines and processes. If a court convicts someone on a federal level, that person might serve time in a federal penitentiary located anywhere in the nation, as opposed to a state prison in Texas.
If you or someone you know deals with such charges, understanding the distinctions of federal charges is essential. Stay informed and understand the laws that affect you both locally and nationally for better preparation.