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What Are the Differences Between Federal and State Courts?


When you’re charged with a crime, one of the most important pieces of information your lawyer can have is whether you were charged in federal or state court. Each court system has a different structure, along with different procedural rules. In some situations, the punishments can be even more severe depending on whether yours is a state case or a federal court case in Lexington, KY.

One of the main concepts at play is jurisdiction, which determines which court can hear a case. Federal courts are established by the U.S. Constitution, whereas state and local courts are formed by the power of the state to hear their own cases. Federal courts hear Constitutional matters as well as matters between states—but sometimes they hear cases that might also be appropriate for state court. Sound complicated? It is. The following is a brief overview of what it means when a federal or state court has jurisdiction over your case.

Federal courts

In general, federal courts hear cases that deal with Constitutional matters (free speech, for example), cases that involve violations of federal laws, cases between citizens of different states, cases that involve more than $75,000 at stake or bankruptcy, copyright, patent and maritime cases. If you have a criminal case that involves federal property, or violates federal laws, yours will be heard as a federal court case in Lexington, KY.

State courts

State courts, on the other hand, have a much broader jurisdiction, and are more likely to be the kind of court you’re dealing with. State courts will hear most criminal cases, as well as family law and civil matters. These include administrative law, probate law, torts, contract disputes and more. For the most part, if you’re dealing with an in-state case that doesn’t involve “a federal question” or federal law, you’re likely to be heard in a state court.

State courts are bound by not only the federal Constitution, but by the laws of their states, cities and other applicable municipalities—which means that no matter the case, the parties are afforded at least federal protections, but never less than that.
State courts hear far, far more cases than federal courts—in fact, state court cases in Lexington, KY and elsewhere are triple the number of federal court filings.

It should be noted that, due to the subject matter of most federal cases, federal court punishments are more severe than those handed down in state court. (If you’ve ever heard someone say “they made a federal case out of this,” that’s where it comes from.)

Legal help for federal and state court cases in Lexington, KY

If you need experienced, efficient and aggressive representation, contact Oakley & Oakley LLC. Our attorneys bring over thirty years’ worth of experience to the table, and can handle a wide variety of cases on both the state and federal court levels. We have an emphasis on criminal defense, family law and personal injury, with an unmatched eye for detail. Call us today for a free consultation.

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