Oftentimes we will see state, local, and federal agents and prosecutors working hand in hand to enforce justice. However, there are some crimes that are typically assigned to the state versus the federal government. Typically, for example, murder is considered a state crime and enforced by the local community in which a killing has occurred. However, when a defendant crosses a state line, he subjects himself to federal jurisdiction. Sometimes people have difficulty understanding this because one would naturally think that the most serious crime should be prosecuted by the federal government. However, the 10th Amendment reserves the police power to the states and to local governments, and so in fact, the most heinous crimes against person and property are enforced by local and state governments. It is highly unusual for the federal government to be involved in most prosecutions of violent crime, including assault, rape, kidnapping, and murder. Why is that? Because there has to be a reason for the federal government to be involved constitutionally. There has to be federal jurisdiction, which typically involves crossing a state line. The reason the crossing of a state line is important is because of the interstate commerce clause and the connection that has to federal crime. In the 1960s, largely as a result of the Civil Rights Movement, the Department of Justice attempted to take over a significant portion of enforcement of civil rights laws. The federalization of crime accelerated in the 1960s and onward. With the hook for federal jurisdiction being the interstate commerce clause, so for example, the United States Department of Justice could prosecute a felon in possession of a firearm. FIP, or felon in possession of a firearm is one of the most commonly prosecuted crimes today, even though it is also very frequently a state crime. What business does the federal government have in prosecuting people who carry firearms who are not licensed to do so? Well, Congress has said that if component parts of a firearm are created in different parts of the country, then that gun is an instrument of interstate commerce and therefore the government has jurisdiction to prosecute that crime. Another reason even some local and state prosecutors prefer federal jurisdiction and federal enforcement of laws that could be enforced by state or local authorities is that generally the federal criminal law carry significantly higher penalties, both in terms of monetary sanctions and potential jail time for defendants convicted of committing a crime.

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