Federal Crime v. State Crime

February 11, 2015
Federal Crime v. State Crime

The difference between federal crime and state crime is largely determined by jurisdiction. Jurisdiction determines the kinds of cases that either federal courts or state courts are authorized to hear.

Federal Court and State Court

There are both state courts and federal courts in this country. Here are some differences between the two types of courts:

State and Federal Courts

A state establishes its state and local courts (local courts are established by cities, counties, and other municipalities). But federal courts are established by and under the U.S. Constitution in order to rule on disputes that involve the Constitution and Congressionally passed laws.

Jurisdiction of State and Federal Courts

State courts have broad jurisdiction. Because of this, the following cases, usually involving individual citizens, are tried  in state courts. These cases include: robberies, traffic violations, broken contracts, and family disputes. States courts are not allowed to hear  lawsuits against the United States and cases that involve certain specific federal laws such as: criminal, antitrust, bankruptcy, patent, copyright, and some maritime cases.

Federal court jurisdiction is limited to the types of cases that are listed in the Constitution, specifically provided for by Congress. For the most part, federal courts only hear:

  • Cases where the United States is a party.
  • Cases of violations of the U.S. Constitution or federal laws – these can include bank fraud, bank robbery, counterfeiting, mail fraud, health care fraud.
  • Cases between citizens of different states that are in conflict about money – if the amount exceeds $75,000.
  • Bankruptcy, copyright, patent, and maritime law cases.

In some of these cases, both federal and state courts have jurisdiction, thus allowing a party to choose whether their case is tried in state court or to federal court.


Source: FindLaw, Federal vs. State Courts – Key Differences, 2014

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