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Will my case be in state or federal court?

Posted on October 22, 2020

51 court systems exist in the United States. 50 of these systems are state systems, and each state has its own. There is one federal court system.

Generally speaking, the government will hear your court case in the system that corresponds to the laws the government accuses you of breaking. If the government is accusing you of breaking a state law, it is likely that your case will end up in state court. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the best way to figure out where your case will be is to talk to your attorney, but you can also call the court itself or look at your paperwork to get this information.

Who has this information?

The best way to figure out if your case will be in state or federal court is to ask your attorney. Otherwise, calling the courthouse is a good option. When you call the courthouse, speak with the clerk of court. This person will know where your case is.

You can also look at pertinent paperwork to figure this out. Look for the initials U.S.C. in the indictment. If you see these letters, this means that your case will be in federal court. If you see any other letters, this indicates that your case will be in state court.

Who decides where the case is?

Again, in the majority of cases it is the laws in question that determine where the case is. However, in certain circumstances the government could choose to prosecute a crime either in state or in federal court.

In these instances, this decision is entirely up to the prosecutors. Neither the defense attorney nor the defendant have any choice in this matter.