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Are federal and state courts the same?

Many people, those who are unfamiliar with the legal system in the United States, believe that federal and state courts are one in the same. While they may have some similarities, there are various differences to be aware of. Generally speaking, there are two types of courts in the United States: federal and state.

Federal courts are in place to decide disputes involving laws passed by Congress as well as those involving the Constitution.

State courts, on the other hand, are established by each state.

While not always the case, federal courts typically hear the following:

-- Cases in which the United States is involved.

-- Cases in which there is a violation of federal law or the United States Constitution.

-- Cases that involve citizens of different states, with the amount of money in question being $75,000 or more.

-- Cases involving copyright, patent, and bankruptcy law.

Of course, there are times when state courts hear cases involving something that could also be covered on a federal level.

You may not think it is important to understand the difference between federal and state courts, but this could impact you in the event that you are charged with a crime. It's important to understand how your case will proceed, including which court will be in charge.

There are similarities between federal and state courts, however, there are just as many differences. Since these are not one in the same, down to every last detail, it's a must for somebody charged with a crime to understand the legal system and how it works.

Source: Federal Judicial Center, "What the Federal Courts Do," accessed Feb. 23, 2016

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