What is a Federal Arrest?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 February 2020
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A federal arrest is the arrest of a person who is suspected of committing a crime that violates United States federal laws. There are many types of crimes that are considered federal crimes rather than acts that violate local or regional law. Usually, these are considered quite serious or are national in nature, such as those involving national security or defrauding the government. The term federal arrest is usually used in the United States; this national-law type of arrest may have another name in other countries.

A federal crime is criminal activity committed in violation of a United States Congress statute. Other crimes a person commits may violate statutes created by state legislature or even the authorities of a particular city or town. Federal crimes include those that cross state lines, criminal activity involving narcotic drugs, gun crimes, and the criminal violation of a person’s civil rights. Fraud may fall under the heading of federal crimes as well, including tax, mail, or wire fraud. Bank robbery, kidnapping and transporting a person to another state, and human trafficking, which is buying and selling humans, are also considered federal crimes.


Sometimes a federal arrest is preceded by the granting of a federal arrest warrant. This means a law enforcement official requests a warrant from a federal judge or magistrate and presents facts related to the case. These facts must show probable cause for the arrest. The judge or magistrate then decides whether or not he believes there is cause for providing the warrant. If he decides there are grounds, he executes the warrant and law enforcement officials have the legal right to make a federal arrest.

In some cases, law enforcement officials may make federal arrests without seeking warrants first. For example, if a law enforcement official witnesses a crime, he can arrest the accused person without seeking a warrant first. If eye witnesses on a crime scene point out a person who has committed a crime, a law enforcement official may arrest that person. Law enforcement officials may also make arrests without warrants if obtaining a warrant first would cause the accused to have suitable time to escape arrest or destroy evidence. They may also make arrests without warrants in other situations in which they have probable cause for doing so.

In most cases, a person who is arrested on federal charges is taken before a judge or magistrate promptly and without unnecessary delays. This is required by federal law. The accused party has the right to reasonable access to an attorney for advice and defense of the charges.


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Post 4

@lapsed - Conspiracy is actually one of the most regularly charged crimes. It's basically when any two or more people conspire together to commit a crime against the United States. Basically the agreement among the would-be criminals is an offense in and of itself. As an example, the types of people usually charged with this are a part of a criminal organization - like say, the mafia - through what is called the RICO Act.

A famous example would be the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in 1979 (who were acquitted) or for a more recent one, Major League Baseball in 2002.

Post 3

I understand the crimes mentioned in the article, but what is a federal conspiracy? Are there any famous examples?

Post 2

@rjh - I'm not a federal attorney but as far as I know if the person in question has already been indicted then the Statute of Limitations (which indicates how long after a crime has been committed before the person can avoid prosecution, I think it's typically about five years) doesn't officially kick in if you have purposely fled. So the prosecution of the crime wouldn't stop.

There are also exceptions to the Statute of Limitations, like murder.

Post 1

What happens to criminals who have violated United States federal law but they flee the country?

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