Who Investigates Federal Crimes?

The U.S. Government has several agencies that investigate federal crimes, including the FBI, DEA, ATF, and Secret Service. Which agency will handle certain matters depends on the conduct involved. In some instances, one agency might work a case. In others, there's interagency cooperation, where resources are shared to conduct a comprehensive investigation. You might not know that you're suspected of a federal crime until an agent comes knocking at your door to ask questions.

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we defend those facing federal crime charges. To speak with one of our Los Angeles lawyers, please call us at (800) 462-7160 or contact us online.

Which Agency Will Handle Your Case

The different federal investigative agencies each handle specific crimes. Sometimes, the matters agencies investigate overlap, and multiple organizations might be involved.

Below are some of the federal agencies and examples of offenses falling under their purview.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation

The FBI is one of the most well-known investigative agencies.

It takes on a wide range of criminal matters, including:

  • Terrorism: Terrorist organizations include large groups or lone offenders that commit violent acts against others. They may be international or domestic groups, but generally, they have a particular cause they are fighting for or against.
  • Cybercrimes: Offenses under this term are those that take place online or are facilitated by the use of the internet. Examples include:
    • Malware attacks: Installing malicious software on a person's or entity's system to unlawfully obtain data.
    • Identity theft: Using someone else's personal identifying information for criminal purposes.
    • Money laundering: Hiding the source of ill-gotten funds.
    • Phishing: Sending a legitimate-looking email to get someone to give up their personal information.

The FBI has cybercrime task forces dedicated to investigating these offenses. It also established the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for people to report online crimes.

  • Organized crime: Agents investigate organizations that engage in illegal conduct or are funded by proceeds from criminal activity.
  • White collar crimes: These include non-violent offenses that are usually financially motivated, such as insider trading, money laundering, and bank fraud.

The Drug Enforcement Agency

As the name suggests, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) handles matters involving controlled substances.

Offenses the agency investigates include the following:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Drug manufacturing
  • Drug possession
  • Pharmaceuticals regulation

It provides drug analyses to support controlled substances-related investigations by other agencies.

The U.S. Secret Service

The U.S. Secret Service was established to investigate and combat crimes affecting the American financial system. Although it initially handled counterfeiting matters, throughout the years, it has evolved and now also takes on violent cybercrimes that threaten financial infrastructures.

Homeland Security Investigations

The Department of Homeland Security's Investigations unit takes on matters involving trafficking goods and other items across borders.

Examples of offenses it pursues include:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

The ATF investigates matters concerning destructive devices and substances that are typically used in violent crimes.

The agency enforces laws on:

  • Firearms: This includes trafficking illegal weapons.
  • Explosives: The focus is on dismantling terroristic organizations and preventing violent crimes.
  • Alcohol and tobacco: The agency works to prevent violent and organized crimes by taking on offenses involving unlawful liquor or tobacco trafficking that violates federal, state, and/or foreign laws and tries to circumvent tax reporting.

The IRS Criminal Investigation Unit

The Internal Revenue Service's Investigation Unit investigates matters that violate the IRS code, such as tax fraud or tax evasion.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service handles crimes involving the mail system.

The agency takes on an array of offenses, such as:

  • Illicit drug distribution: Preventing controlled substances from being delivered through the mail.
  • Mail and package theft: Investigating matters involving tampered with or stolen mail.
  • Mail fraud: Examining cases where the mail system was used to further a fraud scheme.
  • Suspicious mail: Inspecting mail for harmful substances, explosives, or threatening messages.

What to Do If You're Under Federal Investigation

Federal agents are thorough in their investigations. They spend months, sometimes years, looking into alleged offenses. However, you might not know you are in their sights until they contact you or someone you're close to about your involvement in suspected criminal activity. Because of the resources federal agencies have to build cases, as soon as you're aware you're under investigation, hire a criminal defense lawyer. They can start taking steps to protect your rights and build your case.

If you need legal representation for a federal matter, contact our Los Angeles team at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP by calling (800) 462-7160.