Federal Court vs. State Court: What is the Difference?

The U.S. Constitution is what established a federal court system that is shared between the federal government and state governments. Each state has its own federal and state court system, with distinct differences between them. It is important that you understand these differences, especially if you are facing a federal crime versus a state crime.

Jurisdiction of Federal and State Courts

The jurisdiction is what mainly separates the state from federal courts. This refers to the types of cases that these courts will hear.

State courts have broad jurisdiction and can take on individual cases for their state citizens – including robberies, family disputes, etc. Federal courts, on the other hand, have limited jurisdiction and only the cases listed in the Constitution can be specifically heard in federal court. For the most part, federal cases involve:

  • Cases where the United States is a party;
  • Cases that involve U.S. Constitution violations or violations of federal laws;
  • Cases that are between citizens of different states;
  • Cases that have controversial amounts exceeding $75,000;
  • Copyright, patent, and maritime law cases; and
  • Bankruptcy cases.

There are instances where state and federal courts will both have jurisdiction over a case. In these cases, the parties can choose whether they wish for their case to be heard in a state or federal court.

When Criminal Cases Become Federal Cases

Most criminal cases involve violations of state laws; therefore, they are heard in state court. But, there are some cases where a defendant has violated federal law, and in these instances, the case would be heard in federal court versus the state court system.

For example, robbery is a crime, but it can also become a federal crime. There are several federal laws, though few, that make it a federal crime to rob a bank when the deposits are insured by the federal agency. Also, swindling people out of their money via the United States Postal Service is a federal crime.

There are more cases heard in state courts than federal courts each year, but that is simply because state courts have the jurisdiction to handle the volume and types of cases that occur each year. Federal courts often hear cases that are of national importance, while state courts rarely make the news (except for local news outlets).

There are some cases of conduct that are illegal under federal and state laws – such as employee discrimination. In these types of cases, the federal court could take over the case if the individual chooses to file their claim with the federal court system.

The Importance of Federal Litigation

Not all attorneys are skilled in federal court system litigation. If you are facing an immigration issue, for example, you may need to have your case heard in federal court; therefore, you need a litigator that is experienced in the regulations of federal court. The attorneys at De Castroverde Law Group can assist you with your federal case. Contact us for a consultation today at 702-222-9999 or fill out our convenient online contact form.

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