Gilmer & Giglio


State Court v. Federal Court

Common Questions regarding State Court and Federal Court:

  1. Is there a difference between State Court and Federal Court?

    Yes, several. State courts have only the authority to handle crimes which are prohibited by their state laws. And only those crimes which occurred within their states and the smaller district divisions of the courts.

    For example, the First Judicial District Court in Caddo Parish can only handle cases where the crimes were committed in the State of Louisiana, and particularly only in the First Judicial District which encompasses the Parish of Caddo. State courts have no authority to handle federal crimes.

    Federal courts have jurisdiction to handle only violations of federal law and federal laws, because of some specific constitutional requirements, have limited jurisdiction over criminal acts that occurred in more than one state (i.e. drug trafficking across state lines) or which involve interstate commerce (i.e. wire fraud).

    This is why some offenses which are crimes under state law are not crimes under federal law and why there are often additional interstate requirements for prosecutions in federal court.

  2. I have been charged with a drug offense in a Louisiana District Court, can I be charged with a crime in Federal court?

    That depends. If the drugs were transported across state lines, yes, if the drugs you are charged with possessing are illegal to possess under both state and federal law (currently, most of them are, although some states marijuana laws differ from federal law). 

  3. If I’ve been convicted or acquitted of a crime in state court that is also a crime in federal court, doesn’t double jeopardy mean the federal court can’t prosecute me

    No. The double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states (in part): “…nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…”

    However, because our system of government is one of dual sovereignty, we are citizens of the United States of America and also our State of residence. Each sovereign, the United States and the State of Louisiana, has the authority to prosecute the crimes committed within their jurisdiction, without being subject to double jeopardy restrictions for the actions of the other.

    This means that if you are tried for a drug offense in state court and found not guilty, the State cannot retry your case for another shot, but the federal court which has jurisdiction over that case can then prosecute you in the event that the circumstances of your arrest were in violation of a federal crime.

If you or someone you know is facing prosecution in state or federal court and you would like your questions answered, please call us to set up a consult: (318) 459-9111.