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What is the difference between federal and state courts?

For those who have been accused of committing a crime in New York, it is important to understand if the charge is a state or a federal one. The differences can affect the jurisdiction, the outcome and the length of a sentence. It may also make a difference on the record of the accused.

According to FindLaw, local and state courts are established by the state they are in. In states, there may also be courts established by counties, cities and other municipalities. The United States Constitution established federal courts and they are used to settle disputes between laws passed by Congress and the Constitution.

The type of case a court is authorized to hear defines the jurisdiction. Jurisdiction for state courts is broader and involves cases like traffic violations, robberies, family disputes and broken contracts that many individual citizens deal with. State courts are not allowed to hear cases involving certain federal laws such as bankruptcy, copyright, patent, antitrust, criminal and some maritime cases along with any suits brought against the United States.

There are times where both state and federal courts have jurisdiction over an issue. In this situation, the parties involved can choose whether they want to go to federal court or state court. Most criminal cases are handled in state court because they are tied to state law. If the crime violated a federal law, then the case would be handled in federal court.

Other crimes handled in federal court include crossing state or country lines with illegal drugs, crimes that are committed on federal property and using the mail to swindle consumers. Federal property can include military reservations or national parks. Statistics show that one million federal court cases are filed each year and 30 million state court cases are filed each year.

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Law office of Scott G. Cerbin ESQ., PLLC