What is the difference between a state court and a federal court? Is this something you ever wonder? If you do, you are far from alone. It can be very confusing distinguishing one from another, especially considering how much overlap there are between the two.
State courts and federal courts can actually often be used for trials covering the same laws, and the difference often happens just based on who did an arrest or investigation leading to an alleged crime. If it’s something like the FBI or DEA, then a federal court would handle the case. If on the other hand, a state bureau of investigation or state troopers handle an investigation, the charges might be leveled by a state-level district attorney in a state court.
Not all federal cases are criminal though. Suing someone in another state might have to go to a federal court, as federal courts have jurisdiction that extends across all American soil. State courts on the other hand have no influence past their own boundaries and do not often apply to the other 49 states of the Union.
State courts often have to handle many matters that federal courts might not, given that states have their own sets of laws on top of all the federal ones.
The number of locations that each court system has might vary wildly too. A state might only have federal courts at a regional level, whereas there might be state courts in every county or county seat. This does vary however from one state to the next based on each’s unique geography and distribution of population.
Being found guilty of a state crime might mean spending time in a state prison, so an inmate might stay close to home. Federal convictions could mean being sent anywhere.