You have heard the old saying, “Don’t make a Federal Case out of it.” Chances are you don’t have a sufficient appreciation for what it means. Murder is not nice and armed robbery is frowned upon in most circles. But that does not make these crimes subject to prosecution in Federal Court. To bring prosecution to the Federal Court System, the government must show that it has a compelling interest in taking the case. If the crime occurs on government property, involves government assets or employees the burden is met; seems straight forward.
Less obvious is if the offenders used a telephone, the United States mail, the Internet, or crossed state lines during the commission of their crime. Further down in the weeds is using or stealing, or interrupting an implement (firearms, ammunition, money, equipment) made and shipped across state lines in interstate commerce.
The Fourth Circuit came up with this beauty. Two armed robbers held up a whorehouse in Langley Park, Maryland. During the robbery, the robbers killed one person and raped another. The offenders were not identified or arrested until six years after the act. The government relied on the fact that the brothel supplied condoms to its customers and these condoms were manufactured outside of Maryland. Thus the condoms traveled in interstate commerce triggering a compelling government interest. Do your time.
- That (among other things) a Langley Park, Md. brothel made use of condoms manufactured out of state means the robbery of said brothel implicates interstate commerce, says the Fourth Circuit, so the robbery is a federal case.
I can hear it now. Why are you in here?
I didn’t ask why you were born, so your old man was a cheap bastard.