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Los Angeles County Court vs. Federal Court

By Los Angeles Federal Attorney on September 19, 2018

Navigating the American justice system can be perplexing, expensive, and most importantly—terrifying. Being accused of a minor crime can involve months or years of legal trouble, with ramifications that can last a lifetime. Making matters more complicated, sometimes crimes can be charged at both the local and federal levels, meaning that you could be facing multiple trials in different courts.

At Wex Law, our team of criminal defense attorneys is familiar with the Los Angeles County court system, and federal courts such as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. We will mount an aggressive and strategic defense on our clients’ behalf, so give us a call right now if you need legal assistance at (213) 986-9844.

The Differences Between Federal and County Charges

If you’re arrested, you probably don’t notice which government agency is handcuffing you. But who is doing the arresting matters a lot, whether it’s a local police officer, a county sheriff, or an FBI agent. Each one has a separate jurisdiction and is tasked with supervising different categories of crimes.

Local courts, whether municipal or county, were originally established by California according to the state’s constitution and are under the auspices of the California legal system. Federal courts were established by the U.S. Constitution. They were originally formed to help interpret the Constitution and decide disputes between states, though as more government departments have been formed, so too have law enforcement agencies that are in charge of enforcing federal law.

Jurisdiction is an important term when it comes to the various court systems. In the broadest sense, most crimes will be tried at the local or state level, as federal courts have very strict guidelines over what types of cases they can handle. Typical crimes that would be tried before a federal court include the following:

  • Cases involving violations of the U.S. Constitution
  • Civil suits between residents of different states when the amount of the litigation exceeds $75,000
  • Bankruptcy cases
  • Copyright violations
  • Patent law violations
  • Maritime law violations
  • Crimes that take place on federal land, such as a national park
  • Forgery of U.S. currency
  • Tax evasion
  • Kidnapping
  • Mail fraud
  • Bank robbery
  • Identity theft

This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of the types of crimes that could be (or must be) charged at the federal level.

Can I Be Charged at the Local and Federal Level for the Same Crime?

The short answer is yes. While this may seem like a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits what is known as double jeopardy (being forced to stand trial for the same crime more than once), the Supreme Court has established the dual sovereignty doctrine.

Dual sovereignty means that the United States government and individual states each have the right to create their own laws, and to prosecute those laws as they see fit. That means that the same crime can be tried at both the federal and state levels. But practically speaking, this does not often happen. In order to save resources, a case will often be handed off to one or the other jurisdiction to be tried.

Because the federal court system tends to move slower and be more expensive to litigate, as well as to have stiffer penalties, most defendants prefer to have their cases tried in local courts. An attorney who is familiar with the federal court system will have a better chance of getting charges moved to a county or municipal court.

What About the Appeals System?

Another important aspect of both State and Federal courts is the appeals system. Even when a defendant is found guilty by a jury, he or she has the right to appeal the decision. Savvy lawyers are always looking for technicalities and mistaken rulings that violate their client’s rights. When such mistakes occur, an appeals court has the option of ordering a retrial, throwing out a conviction, or changing the sentence.

Successful appeals depend in large part on having an attorney who is experienced dealing with the appeals courts. If you or a loved one has been charged with a federal crime, you need to act immediately to protect your rights and build a solid defense. At Wex Law, our experienced LA-area federal attorneys are ready to act on your behalf, whether it involves getting your case moved to a more favorable jurisdiction or taking your case all the way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Call us today at (213) 986-9844 to schedule a free consultation.


Posted in: Federal Crimes

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