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Written by Attorney Seth Morris


Federal crimes in the United States have serious consequences. You could spend decades in jail and be forced to pay extremely high fines. Federal agencies often work with state and local law enforcement to extend their jurisdiction and investigate suspects accused of federal offenses.

If you’re facing federal charges, these agencies will stop at nothing to build a strong case against you. You must choose your next moves carefully during a federal investigation to avoid self-incrimination. Knowing the agency investigating your charges could inform you of their capabilities and help you understand the gravity of your situation.

Here’s more on the agencies that investigate federal crimes and the types of cases they handle.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Among all the federal agencies that exist, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has the broadest authority. The FBI often works in tandem with state and local law enforcement as well as other federal agencies to investigate the following cases:

  • Terrorism
  • Cyber Crime
  • Counterintelligence
  • Civil Rights
  • Public Corruption
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Organized Crime
  • Violent Crime
  • White-Collar Crime

Drug Enforcement Agency

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is exclusively responsible for enforcing the laws governing controlled substances in the United States. They partner with state and local agencies to extend their jurisdiction and investigate high-level drug trafficking cases. More specifically, the DEA’s mission is to bring to justice any organization or principle that is involved with the growing, manufacturing, or distribution of controlled substances that appear to be trafficked in the United States.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — also known as ATF — was in high demand during the prohibition to control the rise in organized crime throughout the country. Today, they’re primarily responsible for enforcing federal laws regarding the licensing, sale, and distribution of weapons, as well as the storage of explosives.

The ATF might investigate you if you’re accused of committing of the following crimes:

  • Gun trafficking
  • Terrorism
  • Arson
  • Criminal misuse of Explosives
  • Illegal trafficking of Alcohol and Tobacco

Securities and Exchange Commission

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) focus is to ensure transparency in the stock market and protect investors from fraud. The SEC mainly handles white-collar offenses and investigates the following violations:

  • Misrepresentation of important information about securities
  • Manipulating market prices
  • Stealing funds or securities
  • Violating broker-dealers’ responsibility to treat customers fairly
  • Insider trading
  • Selling unregistered securities

U.S. Secret Service

The Secret Service is most known for protecting the Commander in Chief, but they also have other purposes, including investigating financial crimes against the government. While the SEC focuses mostly on securities violations and other white-collar offenses, the Secret Service handles cases involving the following:

  • Counterfeiting of U.S. currency
  • Forgery or theft of U.S. Treasury checks
  • Credit card fraud
  • Telecommunications fraud
  • Identity fraud
  • Computer fraud

When Does a Federal Agency Investigate a Crime?

Depending on the federal charges you face, any one of the agencies listed here will investigate your case. You could face federal charges if the following are true:

  • The crime occurred on federal land.
  • The crime involved a federal officer.
  • The crime involved a federal government or agency.
  • The crime took place across state lines.
  • A criminal crosses state lines.

If you find yourself on the wrong end of a federal investigation, cooperate with authorities. Remember that anything you do or say can be used against you in court. To avoid making matters worse, it’s recommended that you exercise your right to remain silent until you have your attorney present. A federal crimes lawyer can guide you through the investigative process to ensure that your charges don’t stick.

Charged with a Federal Crime? Call Today

All federal offenses must be taken seriously. Agencies like the FBI, ATF, and SEC have several resources at their disposal to ensure you’re prosecuted for the alleged offense. With so many parties preparing to alter the course of your future, you need a dedicated advocate standing in your corner.

Attorney Seth Morris is a distinguished Bay Area criminal defense attorney that has experience in both state and federal courts. He understands the severity of your charges and can challenge the prosecution’s case to fight for a desirable outcome. Contact our office today at (510) 225-9955 to schedule a free consultation.