WHAT IS FEDERAL LAW AND WHAT KINDS OF CASES ARE IN FEDERAL COURT?
There are three main levels of court in most states, including North Carolina: State District Court, State Superior Court and Federal Court.
The State Courts are in a separate State or County owned building and the Federal Courts are in a Federally owned building that usually sits in an important city within a State and not every city will have one. There may be several Federal court buildings per state, each in a separately assigned “Federal District.” Only cases that qualify for Federal Jurisdiction are allowed to be filed (in the case of law suits) or tried (in the case of federal crimes) in Federal court. State court Judges are often elected, whereas Federal court Judges are appointed by the President of the United States.
Criminal cases that qualify for Federal Court are typically those involving a federal institution (bank robbery, IRS crimes, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), and drug cases that involve activity crossing state lines or large amounts of drugs (usually referred to as “trafficking”). With regard to Federal criminal law, the United States Attorney, who is the prosecutor in Federal court (like the District Attorney is in State Court), has wide discretion in which criminal cases are chosen to be prosecuted in Federal court. Often, the same crime may be eligible for prosecution in both the State and Federal court systems under different “state” and “federal” statutes or laws. An example of this is an act of violence that is a serious assault in State court, which is also a “hate crime” in Federal court. Both court systems may choose to prosecute for the same activity in different ways and at the same time, but this is not always the case.
Federal Civil Cases, on the other hand, typically involve Constitutional issues (Civil Rights cases, cases requiring the interpretation of one of the many Federal Statutes, etc.). Often, larger amounts of money damages are involved in Federal Court cases than those in State Court.
What Is A Federal Criminal Defense Attorney?
A Federal criminal or Federal civil lawyer has to meet all the normal requirements for an attorney, along with a few special ones: for example, he/she has to be admitted to Federal practice and would have to be sworn before a Federal Court Judge. A Federal criminal attorney must also prove himself proficient in his knowledge of Federal criminal law as his representation proceeds. Only a Federal court attorney may represent a criminal defendant or a civil litigant client in Federal court. In the case of federal criminal law, the penalties tend to be more severe than those in State court which are prosecuted under state criminal law.
How to choose the best federal defense lawyer for your case?
Federal court trials are conducted differently than those in State court, and the attorney should be able to adapt to and be experienced in these differences in order to be an effective Federal trial lawyer. Experience in handling a wide variety of Federal cases is always a good thing: federal criminal drug trafficking, bank robberies, federal weapons violations, violations of the immigration and customs enforcement laws, federal white collar crimes and cyber crime charges are a few examples of these. A federal lawyer should work hard to quickly develop a body of experience from which to draw in order to be effective for his client.