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Are All Crimes in Washington, D.C. Federal Crimes?

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This is a question we hear a lot as Maryland defense attorneys: "since Washington, D.C. is a federal territory, does that mean all crimes committed in D.C. are federal crimes?" The short answer is no. Here's the long answer: while all federal law enforcement agencies have jurisdiction within the District of Columbia, they will often not involve themselves in crimes that don't involve their specific enforcement mandate.

Instead, most crimes that would otherwise be state crimes are charged under the D.C. Code, which was drafted by Congress but is able to be amended by the D.C. Council. However, Congress retains the authority to amend the D.C. Code at any time. Additionally, all civil and criminal cases are tried in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which is a branch of the local D.C. government but is operated by the federal government.

Here's where it gets a little complicated:

Misdemeanors and traffic violations are prosecuted by the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, a city official. However, federal offenses and felony offenses are prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. The U.S. Attorney is appointed by the President and reports to the Department of Justice, a federal institution. In the rest of the country, 93% of prosecutors are elected, while the rest are appointed by local officials.

So, if you're charged with a felony, does it count as a federal crime? No, but it will be prosecuted by a federal attorney who works for a federal institution, with all the resources and power that comes with federal office. While it may not be a federal crime, you'll still need a defense attorney with serious resources, experience, and litigation skill.

Call Gracia & Mintz for Criminal Defense in Washington, D.C.

If you were charged with a felony within the borders of the District of Columbia, you need an experienced litigator in your corner as soon as possible. Gracia & Mintz is a law firm made of two former prosecutors and law enforcement professionals who have devoted their lives to protecting the accused. Our trial experience, knowledge of the system, and dedication to defendants' rights is what has allowed us to secure life-changing results for the accused in Prince George's County and beyond.

Call (301) 842-8584 to get a free consultation to learn your legal options.