The Differences Between Federal and State Court Systems

jomar-thomas-271602-copy-300x200All lawyers in Chicago are required to know the difference between state and federal law so that they can represent their clients accordingly. Each part of the court system has specific cases and offenses that it deals with. The punishments may even change depending on whether a person is charged with a state or federal crime.

The differences started right from the time that the two courts were established. Each state that makes up the USA is allowed to establish its own local and state courts. This would allow justice to be implemented by local people for local people. The role of local courts extends to counties, cities, and municipalities. By contrast, the federal court is established via the US Constitution. Many times, there is some level of coordination between the two systems in order to ensure that justice is served.

Different Roles and Responsibilities for the Courts

  • Federal courts normally deal with issues concerning the US Constitution. For example, the Supreme Court dealt with the issue of marriage equality or same-sex marriage using federal law.
  • The federal courts normally deal with issues that are concerned with those laws that are made by the US Congress. This is what is known as its jurisdiction. By contrast, state courts deal with issues concerning those laws that are made by the state congress. For example, a state may decide to become a sanctuary city for immigrants even when federal law forbids it.
  • The state courts hear a lot of cases about many more things than the federal courts, which are severely restricted in terms of what matters they can deal with. For example, prisoners who commit robbery, traffic offenses, and domestic violence are more likely to be brought before the state courts. Federal courts tend to focus on things like antitrust laws, patents, and bankruptcy.
  • Federal courts are given the power to hear those cases where citizens of different states are in dispute as long as the amounts involved are higher than $75,000. This is what the experts call “diversity jurisdiction.” For example, someone is suing for damages for a criminal act by a person in another state and they are looking for compensation of $1 million.

Cases that Could Fall Either Way

There are certain cases that can be heard at both the federal and local levels. This is where the prosecutor has some choice as to how to deal with the case. For example, murder can be tried at both the state and federal level, depending on the case. Sometimes, the punishments at the state level are harsher than those at the federal level or vice versa. The court systems that are eventually used will depend on the offense, prosecutor, and crime involved.

That is why it is important to hire lawyers who know how to operate within the system. They can ask for the case to be tried using the state or federal system depending on which decision is going to have more benefit for their clients. At other times, it is the investigating team that will decide where to try the case. For example, if the person is charged with lying to an FBI agent, that can become a federal crime.

What to do When Charged

It is important to be clear about whether the person is being charged under state or federal law. Each of these courts has separate procedures that will affect how the case is eventually resolved. Please contact David Freidberg Attorney at Law at telephone number 312-560-7100 for further advice and support.

(image courtesy of Jomar Thomas)