Federal Court vs State Court the Differences
If you commit a crime, then you could face two types of criminal charges. You could face either federal or state charges. If you have federal charges, then you need to show up in federal court. Likewise, if you commit a state crime, then you show up in state crime. There are some key differences between the two types of court. Find out about those differences and what it means for you.
What Is Federal Court?
Federal court refers to a court that the federal government runs. According to the US Constitution, the federal government has the power to handle legal disputes that involve the Constitution or Congressional laws. All other disputes are state issues. As such, the cases go to a state court. In those states, there are also local courts.
In a federal court, a federal judge hears your case. There are set procedures that determine how the judicial process occurs. For this reason, it is wise to use a lawyer who has experience defending federal crimes. This ensures that your lawyer has a full understanding of the process.
Who Has Jurisdiction?
Jurisdiction involves the type of case that a court hears. For example, a federal court has jurisdiction over cases that involve a multi-state crime. In drug trafficking and kidnapping cases, this is often the situation. The case falls under federal jurisdiction and goes to federal court.
Generally speaking, state courts have more jurisdiction. They often hear cases like robberies, family disputes, and traffic violations. However, they cannot hear cases that are lawsuits against the United States. Additionally, they cannot hear cases that involve certain federal laws. For example, all of the following are federal cases:
- Cases that involve antitrust
- Patent disputes
- Bankruptcy cases
- Copyright issues
In certain situations, a crime have both federal and state jurisdiction. When this occurs, you might be able to choose which court hears your case. Under certain circumstances, you could face both federal and state charges. This is a rare occurrence, but it is possible.
Although it might sound complicated, there are some easy ways to determine jurisdiction. Some laws, like robbery, are only state laws. There are very few federal laws that involve robbery. The only ones that do relate to involve robbery federal crimes. For example, robbing money from a bank is a federal offense. There is a federal law that relates to stealing from a bank. However, there is no federal law that relates to stealing from a home. That falls under state jurisdiction.
The Main Differences
Besides the issue of jurisdiction, there are a few key differences between federal court and state court. Understanding those differences can help you know what to expect:
Although federal court and state court is similar in procedure, there are a few key differences. This is important information for your lawyer. If he has no experience with federal court, then your lawyer might not be your best defense option.
It’s also different than state court in that all federal court is the same. It doesn’t matter which state is the venue for your federal case. In any federal case, the procedure is the same.
2. Mandatory Minimums
One of the biggest differences between federal and state court is the issue of mandatory minimums. In state court, a judge needs to follow sentencing requirements carefully. In some states, there are mandatory minimums for some crimes. No matter what circumstances surround a crime, the judge must issue the minimum required sentence. As a result, some people go to jail when they don’t deserve jail time. The judges don’t have much flexibility when it comes to sentencing.
Meanwhile, federal court judges have much more flexibility. They rely on a manual for sentencing guidelines. However, they do not need to follow those guidelines closely. If a judge wants to stray from them, then he can. He might choose to issue a lesser sentence than what the guide recommends.
In a state court case, there is usually not an in-depth investigation. The state only has so much money and time to perform an investigation. On the other hand, a federal case is a drawn-out affair. Often, an investigation involves different law enforcement agencies. As a result, there is an in-depth investigation. That investigation often results in boxes of discovery.
Which is Better?
It is impossible to say whether federal or state court is better for someone who is on trial. However, a lawyer can tell you which is better for your specific trial. Although facing federal charges can mean that a judge has more flexibility in sentencing, this may not help you. It all depends on your situation.
If you’re facing federal charges, then you need all the help that you can get. Contact a lawyer who has experience with federal court. Then, you might be able to fight the charges and get a good outcome.