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Federal and State Court System Proceedings

GavelScales-150x150The Judicial Branch has two court systems: federal and state. While each hears certain types of cases, neither is completely independent of the other. The two systems often interact and share the goal of fairly handling legal issues.

The federal court system deals with legal issues expressly or implicitly granted to it by the US Constitution. The state court systems deal with their respective state constitutions and the legal issues that the U.S. Constitution did not give to the federal government or explicitly deny to the states.

When Federal Law Prevails

When a state and federal law explicitly conflict, it is the federal law that prevails. This happens when a state law expressly permits an action that the federal law expressly forbids. For example, if a federal law prohibits the possession of marijuana, and a state law permits it, the federal law prevails and no state resident can legally possess marijuana–even though state law allows it. However, the opposite is not true. States have a right to impose more responsibility on their residents, and a state law can prohibit marijuana even if federal law permits it.

Cases Heard in Federal Courts

  • Cases that deal with the constitutionality of a law
  • Cases involving the laws and treaties of the U.S
  • Ambassadors and public ministers
  • Disputes between two or more states
  • Admiralty law
  • Bankruptcy

Cases Heard in State Courts

  • Most criminal cases, probate (involving wills and estates)
  • Most contract cases, tort cases (personal injuries), family law (marriages, divorces, adoptions), etc.

State courts are the final arbiters of state laws and constitutions. Their interpretation of federal law or the U.S. Constitution may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may choose to hear or not to hear such cases.

Overview Of Criminal Trial Procedures

States and the federal government follow a largely uniform set of procedures. A criminal trial typically consists of the following six phases:

  1. Choosing A Jury
  2. Opening Statements
  3. Witness Testimony and Cross-Examination
  4. Closing Arguments
  5. Jury Instruction
  6. Jury Deliberation and Verdict

Federal Courts in Florida

In the United States, we operate under a system called federalism. This means that both the individual states and the federal government have legislative bodies for passing laws. The Florida Legislature is the body for the state of Florida, and the United States Congress is the body for the federal government. Both the Florida government and the federal government have the power to enforce those laws. Generally, it is the states that have jurisdiction over the majority of criminal matters. However, the federal government also has its own set of criminal laws that can cause arrests.

Traditionally, the federal government has only used its criminal jurisdiction for crimes that cross borders, both state and international – such as for crimes like human trafficking, drug trafficking, counterfeiting, or fraud. In the last century, however, this trend has been changing, with the federal government encroaching closer and closer on that traditional line separating federal issues from state issues. This includes matters like illegal drug possession, which conventionally has been handled by state law.

It is important to note that the similarities between federal and state criminal cases include the duty of the prosecution to prove all their case elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense is obligated to prove nothing, unless the defendant desires to present an affirmative defense. The job of the defense in a federal case, then is the same as for a state case – to protect the defendant’s rights and to show that there is, in fact, reasonable doubt in both the individual elements of the prosecution’s case and their case as a whole.

A federal conviction can come with time served in federal prison, which is often a dangerous place where people lose their liberty, privacy, and dignity and not the idealized “white collar country club” from popular misconception. When fighting federal charges and the federal penalties that come with them, therefore, it is important for you to have an experienced Palm Beach County criminal defense attorney experienced in working with the differing rules, procedures, and environment found in the federal court system.

Andrew D. Stine, P.A. – Federal Crime Defense Lawyer in Palm Beach County

If you have been arrested and charged on a federal offense in Palm Beach County, exercise your right to an attorney and contact Andrew D. Stine, P.A. immediately.

Andrew Stine is a skilled and qualified West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer with over a decade of experience, and knows what it takes to defend your rights and your future against a conviction from the federal government. Your first consultation is free, so call 561-832-1170 today and schedule yours.

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