Law Office of Michael L. Fell
900 Roosevelt Irvine, CA 92620
(949) 585-9055

State and Federal Courts: Learn the Main Differences You Should Know

If you are charged with a crime, one of the deciding factors in how serious the potential punishment would be is where the case is tried: Federal or state. Keep reading to find out the difference between United States Federal Courts and state courts. If you are charged with a state crime and require the assistance of a criminal defense attorney, contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055.

Courts within the United States

There are three types of courts in the U.S.: Federal, state, and local. Federal courts are designed to deal with constitutional issues and federal laws Congress has passed. State courts handle state laws while local laws handle local ordinances and regulations. State courts can handle everything from minor traffic issues to serious felonies. The majority of cases tried in the U.S. are tried in state court – not federal court.

Federal courts may also try cases that would generally be handled in state court if there are a number of crimes committed during the same act, or if the criminal act(s) crossed state lines. Crimes charged at the federal level include drug trafficking, identity theft, and certain types of fraud.

Different Courts Require Different Attorneys

When a case is tried at the federal level, the prosecutor will either be a United States Attorney or Assistant US Attorney. When a case is tried at the state level, either a District Attorney, either state or district, will handle the case.

The person being charged with the crime will need to find a criminal defense attorney with experience in their particular court – whether state or federal. Note that federal judges are appointed directly by the United States President and appointed for life, while state court judges are appointed by the state in which they work and must be re-elected.

Potential Penalties for State and Federal Crimes

Most federal judges follow similar guidelines, and in most cases, federal consequences will be more severe than state consequences – even when the criminal charges are similar. A person who is convicted of a federal crime will go to federal prison while a person convicted of a state crime will generally go to state prison, if they go to prison at all. When you contact a criminal defense attorney, they can help you understand the specific penalties you could potentially face.

A Person Can Be Charged by the Federal and State Government for the Same Crime

Though it is extremely rare, it is possible for a person who was tried and at the state level to later be charged at the federal level for the same crime – or vice versa. While Double Jeopardy prevents a person from being charged twice for the same crime, the law considers state and federal courts to be entirely different and Double Jeopardy does not automatically apply.

If you are ready to work with an experienced attorney, then we welcome your call to Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055.