It can be difficult for many readers to understand the difference between state and federal charges. In the simplest terms, a federal crime can be described as a breach of federal law. However, many activities violate both state and federal laws. Marijuana use, for example, is against the law in most states, but it is also prohibited by federal law.
In practice, federal charges are brought forward for certain crimes that are investigated by the federal government. Drug crimes investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency, for example, often result in federal charges. Similarly, mail fraud is a federal crime because the U.S. Postal Service is a federal agency. Organized crime and crimes involving foreign organizations are also likely to be charged as federal crimes.
A man from Cary, North Carolina, is currently facing federal charges after the FBI accused him of attempting to assist a terrorist organization in Syria. The man allegedly attempted to contact and join Nusra Front, a group that the State Department has labeled a terrorist organization.
According to the FBI, in 2012 the man flew to Turkey to join the Free Syrian Army, a moderate rebel group. He left, however, after a month and returned home. He allegedly wanted to return last September, but decided against it at the last minute and chose to remain home.
Finally, three weeks later, he made contact with an undercover FBI agent posing as a member of Nusra Front. The man allegedly told the FBI agent that he wanted to assist the group in several different ways. The agent promised to help the man make contact with Nusra Front. The North Carolina man was eventually arrested at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, where he was allegedly attempting to travel to Lebanon.
The man now faces a maximum of $250,000 fine and up to 15 years imprisonment if convicted. He is being held without bail after a judge determined that he may be a flight risk. So far, his family has said little about the situation, except to state that there "is no truth" in the federal accusations.
Source: Newsobserver.com, "Cary man charged with attempting to aid terrorist group" Andrew Kenney, Nov. 11, 2013