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The differences between federal and state courts

When you're charged with a federal crime, the potential penalties are generally higher than those for state crimes. On top of that, you'll potentially have to wait longer for your case to be heard. As someone facing federal charges, your defense being strong is the best chance you have of getting your case dropped or the charges lowered. Your attorney may want to try to get your case brought to state courts instead of federal, or he or she may need to prepare you for the differences in each court.

The key difference between the two courts is that state courts look at crimes such as traffic violations, broken contracts, divorces, robberies, and other everyday disputes. Federal courts, on the other hand, are only involved in cases where the United States is a party, if the U.S. Constitution or federal laws are broken, or if the case involves several states.

There are some instances where the courts of either the state of federal government can judge your case, but it's important to discuss which would be better with your attorney and to see if your case can be taken to the court most likely to work in your favor. Typically, state courts will have more minor cases to see, so your case may be seen quickly.

In most cases, your criminal case would be tried at the state level. However, if you are involved in a case of fraud, Internet crimes, or other types, then the federal government may want to pursue your case in federal court. Federal cases are not always heard quickly, as they do not see as many cases each year.

Source: FindLaw, "Federal vs. State Courts - Key Differences," accessed Nov. 25, 2015

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