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Charlotte Law Blog

What’s the Difference Between State and Federal Criminal Court?

On behalf of Randall & Stump, PLLC in Criminal Defense on Tuesday, August 21, 2018

 

One of the first issues a criminal defense lawyer will have to resolve in your case is what court has jurisdiction over the charges – meaning is it state or federal court? On some issues, the outcome of your case will be extremely different depending on what court system your case moves through.

Being charged with a criminal offense can cause lasting damage to your life. Whether or not you’re convicted, going through the criminal justice system is a draining process. On top of that, you could be risking your reputation and most certainly your freedom.

If you’re facing a criminal investigation in the Charlotte area, Randall & Stump, PLLC should be your first call. Our lawyers understand that we’re also fighting for your case, we’re fighting for you. To schedule a free and confidential case consultation, contact us today at (980) 237-4579.

The Origins of State and Federal Criminal Courts

The first difference between the state and federal courts is where and how they originated. Federal courts were established by the United States Constitution to resolve disputes about its contents, or the laws of Congress. State courts establish their own courts, and the issues they consider are varied. Local courts are formed in specific counties and they handle an even smaller scope of cases because their jurisdiction is limited to criminal acts which take place within their county.

What is the Difference Between State and Criminal Courts?

The main distinction between federal and state courts is their jurisdiction, and what cases the law permits them to hear. State courts generally have broad jurisdiction over the rules and citizens of that state. Federal courts, on the other hand, have a more limited jurisdiction. Federal courts can only hear cases that involve:

  • Violations of Federal Laws
  • Violations of State Laws, while on Federal Property
  • Cases filed against the United States
  • Maritime law, copyright cases, and other issues as defined under federal jurisdiction

Criminal Jurisdiction is Decided by Which Law is Broken and Where

The law(s) you allegedly violated determine the jurisdiction of your criminal case. For example, if you committed robbery, you likely only violated your state’s law(s) against the offense. In this situation, your case would be prosecuted in state court. Federal law, however, declares it a crime to rob a bank whose accounts are insured by a federal agency. If you robbed such a facility, you violated a federal statute. Therefore, your case would be prosecuted in federal court.

Federal Court Jurisdiction

There are some circumstances under which federal courts can hear cases concerning state laws. For example, if you were arrested for Driving While Impaired (DWI) on a military base, that case will be prosecuted in a federal court.

In addition, there are many forms of conduct, for example drug trafficking, that violate both state and federal regulations. The case may be heard in any jurisdiction in which a law is broken, so state and federal prosecutors in such a situation decide in which jurisdiction they want to proceed.

Find an Attorney with Experience in Both State and Federal Court

You may not initially know whether your criminal case will be handled in state or federal court. It is possible for your case to proceed through the state court system and then be picked up by a federal prosecutor at a later date. In fact, the federal prosecutor could take months to decide they want to prosecute you in federal court.

To avoid having to find a different attorney, you should work with one who has experience in both state and federal court. This will allow you a smoother transfer if your case is picked up by a federal prosecutor and moved to federal court. The federal court system can result in harsher punishments for convictions. Thus, it’s important to have an attorney who is familiar with federal negotiation and legal process.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help Today

Whether your case is heard in state or federal courts is a question your attorney will have to address early on. From jurisdiction to affirmative defenses, a criminal defense lawyer from Randall & Stump, PLLC understands how to put together a thorough defense. We are familiar with the federal court system and state courts in NC, and we are prepared to help you with every step of the process. The court system can be overwhelming, and you want someone on your side as you go through it.

To schedule a free consultation, reach out online or call us at (980) 237-4579.