A Discussion of the Two Criminal Court Systems in Louisiana

All across the country and right here in Louisiana there are two criminal court systems at work. One system is that of the state courts and the other is that of the federal courts. State and federal courts hear different types of matters based upon where the laws alleged to have been violated originated from.

According to the Federal Judicial Center, many criminal laws originate from the states. For residents of Louisiana, this means that the legislature of the state has enacted criminal laws particular to Louisiana and that do not apply in neighboring states like Texas and Arkansas. State law covers crimes ranging from murder to drug charges to sex crimes and trials on those crimes are heard in state criminal courts.

Federal courts also hear criminal matters, but only under certain circumstances. Generally, a crime must in some way impact the workings of the federal government to be a federal crime. For example, drug crimes can involve federal criminal charges when the crimes occur in two different states or when drugs are carried into the country by illegal means.

Though a person may exercise his rights to counsel and to defend himself in both state and federal criminal courts, there are differences between the two systems that make them unique. How allegations are filed and how a trial unfolds can differ based on the procedures utilized in the different court systems. For that reason, if a person chooses to work with counsel it can be helpful for him to select an attorney with either federal or state criminal experience, depending on which court his or her case will be heard.

Criminal charges, whether logged in state or federal court, can impose long-term consequences on an individual. Many attorneys are licensed to practice in both court systems and can help individuals facing charges prepare their defense plans. Though the systems may differ in some respects, both afford individuals the ability to argue their cases and exercise their rights.

Source: Federal Judicial Center, “What the Federal Courts Do,” accessed on Aug. 11, 2014

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