Dealing with any criminal charge can be a daunting task. This is especially true when facing Federal criminal charges because most people feel more frightened and intimidated when the criminal charges are brought in the Federal courts as opposed to the State courts. If you are facing Federal charges you may wonder why you are not in State court. Or, in the worst-case scenario, you may wonder why you are being prosecuted in both courts. There are many reasons for this decision, and these are discussed below.
Being Prosecuted in Both State and Federal Court
To begin with, all courts handling criminal cases are in either the Federal or the State court system, but the criminal cases they are empowered to hear, also called their “jurisdiction” differs significantly. Federal court judges have the power to preside over matters involving the U.S. Constitution and over all Federal Laws, which are those passed by the U.S. Congress. State court judges are empowered to preside over cases involving the State Constitution, and over all State laws, meaning those passed by a State or Municipal governing body. State courts can therefore preside over traffic tickets and state misdemeanor and felony cases. The court of primary jurisdiction in the Federal system is called the “district court” whereas the court of primary jurisdiction in the State system is the circuit court. In the State system, the district court is a lower court, below the circuit court, and is the place all state criminal charges begin. State felonies must be handled in the circuit court however.