blog home Criminal Law How Is Jurisdiction Determined Between State, Local, and Federal Governments?

How Is Jurisdiction Determined Between State, Local, and Federal Governments?

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on October 14, 2021

When you have been accused of a serious crime, jurisdiction is an important matter. The difference between state and federal charges can be significant. In the U.S., we have a federal government, and each state has its own legal system. Federal and state courts each hear specific types of cases (which is known as jurisdiction), and each legal system has specific laws and unique procedures.

What Types of Cases Are Heard in Federal Court?

The federal court system was created by the U.S. Constitution. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and are restricted on the types of cases they are authorized to hear. Cases heard by a federal court must involve federal law. Examples of such matters include:

  • Cases involving the U.S. Constitution or matters of federal law
  • Cases in which the United States is a party
  • Cases involving parties from different states
  • Maritime law, patent, copyright, or bankruptcy matters
  • Matters of interstate commerce

What Matters Do Municipalities Handle?

Local municipalities only have jurisdiction to manage local matters. Examples of such matters include parking regulations, housing codes, and zoning issues. Municipalities address legal matters affecting people within a particular local area.

State Court vs Federal Court: Which Has Jurisdiction?

Provided certain conditions are met, state courts can hear matters of federal law and federal courts can hear matters of state law. State courts may limit their jurisdiction according to the type of claim or the amount in question. In criminal cases, misdemeanor charges may be handled by a lower court, while felony charges are handled in a higher court.

  • State courts generally handle matters such as contract disputes, real estate disputes, estate cases, personal injury cases, and family law matters (divorce and child custody).
  • Federal courts only have jurisdiction when there is a diversity of citizenship or when a federal question is presented. Cases they hear may involve constitutional issues, civil matters with parties from different states, issues regarding federal law, and patent, copyright, bankruptcy, and maritime matters.

What Types of Criminal Cases Are Heard in Federal and State Courts?

Federal Courts

A crime can be a federal offense if it violates federal law or the laws of multiple states. For example, cases involving drug trafficking, commercial fraud, or wire fraud are usually heard in federal court. Criminal offenses in violation of the federal legal code include terrorism, crimes committed on federal property, crimes against children, crimes against the government, assassination of an official, arson, armed robbery, sexual assault, aggravated assault, drug trafficking, and identity theft. Many white collar crimes are federal offenses, including racketeering, embezzlement, mail fraud, and wire fraud.

State Courts

There may be an overlap between state and federal jurisdiction in criminal matters. Typically, state courts hear cases involving crimes such as homicide, assault and battery, sex offenses, theft crimes, and DUI.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

State and federal criminal jurisdiction can be complicated. Our experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can help you understand the charges you are facing and why the court hearing your case has jurisdiction. We can also provide skilled legal defense against the charges and give you a better chance of obtaining the best possible outcome for your future.

Our founding partner at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP has been practicing law since 1986. Mark Werksman and Alan Jackson are both former prosecutors who understand how the prosecution thinks and operates. Our premier criminal defense team has decades of experience representing the accused in the most complex, consequential criminal cases in California. Call us at (213) 688-0460 to schedule a consultation if you are facing serious state or federal criminal charges.

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Posted in: Criminal Law