When Does the FBI Get Involved in a Criminal Case?

when does the fbi get involved in a case

The FBI initiates investigations when an alleged crime violates established federal laws and codes. As a federal law enforcement agency under the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI has jurisdiction over a wide range of offenses that rise to the national level – including public corruption, civil rights violations, cyber crimes, terrorism and national security threats, large-scale fraud schemes, and more.

Their involvement often carries far higher stakes than state prosecutions and requires skilled legal representation from the outset.

What is the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a federal agency under the United States Department of Justice, meaning its mandate extends across the country.

Specifically, the FBI serves as both a national security service, gathering and analyzing intelligence to prevent domestic and international threats, and a leading investigative body tasked with enforcing over 200 categories of federal crimes.

As criminal investigators, FBI agents frequently collaborate with state and local law enforcement organizations through:

  • Multi-agency task forces and operations sharing resources
  • Providing technical guidance, forensic analysis, and database access
  • Coordinating efforts around crimes spanning multiple jurisdictions

However, the FBI doesn’t just assist other agencies on a supportive basis. They also have the authority to independently initiate investigations and make arrests for any alleged violations of U.S. federal law.

Types of Crimes the FBI Investigates

Federal Crimes

As a federal law enforcement body, the FBI’s primary criminal mandate covers any offenses that potentially violate United States federal statutes and codes. Some of the most common examples include:

  • Bank robberies and other crimes that cross state boundaries
  • Large-scale organized crime operations, racketeering, and gang activities
  • Major economic/white-collar crimes like fraud, embezzlement, money laundering
  • Kidnappings and crimes committed on federal properties or reservations

Public Corruption

The FBI devotes extensive resources to rooting out corruption among public officials at all local, state, and federal levels. This includes alleged bribery schemes, misappropriation of taxpayer funds, and violations of civil liberties by those in power.

Investigating hate crimes, human trafficking, and other civil rights violations against U.S. citizens is also considered a high-priority public corruption matter for FBI agents nationwide.

Cyber Crime

In the digital age, the FBI has become a leading law enforcement agency for combating technology-focused offenses like:

  • Hacking, data breaches, intellectual property theft
  • Cyber-attacks, malware/ransomware distribution
  • Email fraud scams, identity theft, online extortion
  • Illegal arms/munitions trafficking on the dark web

National Security Threats

The FBI’s national security branch handles many of the most severe criminal threats facing the United States and its interests abroad, such as:

  • International terrorism and terrorist financing operations
  • Global drug trafficking and smuggling organizations
  • Espionage, intellectual property theft by foreign adversaries
  • Export violations related to restricted military/nuclear materials

FBI Joint Task Force Operations

To combat some of the largest criminal enterprises effectively, the FBI frequently partners with other federal investigative agencies, state/local law enforcement, and even international counter-crime organizations through joint task forces.

Some prominent examples include:

  • The FBI’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces
  • The Joint Terrorism Task Force combating domestic extremism
  • Newly emerging Cyber Task Forces monitoring the dark web

Pooling collective resources and intelligence through these joint operations empowers the FBI and partners to take down broad criminal networks that span multiple regions and jurisdictions.

When the FBI Gets Involved in Criminal Cases

The FBI investigates federal crimes, threats to national security, crimes crossing state lines, and major cases requiring resources beyond the capabilities of local law enforcement.

Violations of Federal Law

The most obvious scenario prompting FBI involvement is when an alleged crime violates established federal criminal laws and statutes. A few common examples:

  • Drug trafficking across state lines or international borders
  • Bank fraud against federally-insured institutions
  • Large-scale mortgage fraud or money laundering schemes
  • Crimes committed on federal properties like national parks

Requests for Assistance

While the FBI has total jurisdiction over federal offenses, they’ll also commonly get involved in state criminal cases at the request of state or local law enforcement agencies.

These requests could stem from the FBI’s expertise with more complex evidence analysis, advanced forensics, electronic surveillance capabilities, or intelligence databases that smaller departments may lack access to. The FBI can lend these specialized resources and manpower to difficult investigations.

Multi-Jurisdiction Cases

Even for alleged crimes that may normally fall under state/local jurisdictions, the FBI will likely get involved if illegal activities span multiple states, regions, or international borders.

This multi-jurisdictional approach allows for streamlined cooperation and information-sharing rather than having disjointed local efforts. Complex, multi-state drug trafficking conspiracies or cyber crimes are common examples.

FBI vs. State Investigation Procedures

FBI investigations differ from standard police procedures in numerous ways:

  • More liberal standards around surveillance, undercover tactics, electronic monitoring
  • Using federal grand juries overseen by prosecutors rather than local judges
  • Holding suspects indefinitely without bail in certain situations
  • Aggressively overcoming barriers through court orders, asset seizures, etc.
  • Higher burdens of proof and more complicated rules of criminal procedure at trial

With enhanced investigative methods, stringent rules of evidence, and complex federal procedures, an FBI investigation requires skilled legal representation from experts versed in federal criminal defense strategies.

Protect Your Rights Against Federal Prosecution

If you’re facing criminal charges initiated by the FBI or believe you’re under investigation, your first step should be to immediately engage experienced criminal defense attorneys who routinely handle federal cases.

We cannot stress this enough—FBI investigations and federal prosecutions are extremely complex. Skilled legal representation is critical from the start to protect your rights and get the best possible outcome.

At Whalen Law Office, we’ve spent years in federal courtrooms, studying the FBI’s tactics while developing proven defense strategies tailored for these high-stakes cases. We know this system inside and out, giving you a true legal advocate in your corner against the full weight of federal prosecution.

From strategically dealing with FBI agents and prosecutors to leveraging mitigating evidence and constructing airtight defenses, our firm is prepared for any federal criminal scenario. This allows you to focus on moving forward in life rather than drowning under charges.

Having the FBI show up to investigate rarely means it’s an open-and-shut case. Don’t become another number in the federal system – contact Whalen Law Office today so we can get to work protecting your freedom.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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