The State of Michigan and Federal Courts – What Exactly is the Difference?

Michigan State and Federal Courts Lawyer

Why Am I At This Court And Not Somewhere Else?

Navigating what seems to be sometimes a random draw of which court will be hosting a case can be confusing. How is the actual location of a ‘Host Court’ determined? Our office practices in district, circuit, and federal courts all over the State of Michigan, and figuring out why we are at a certain place helps our clients to understand the specifics of what is happening to them – the process if you will of the life cycle of a case is largely determined by WHERE someone will be. Why am I at a district court? Why is this going to a circuit court? How did we get here in the first place?

 

There Are Specific Factors That Go Into Where We Will Appear In Court

Depending upon the type of crime committed will oftentimes decide where a case will be held. In some situations, the federal government has exclusive rights to prosecute something, but typically, the states themselves have the power to choose how they will prosecute a person for criminal activity. In fact, the large majority of prosecutions will take place in a state court. In some situations, federal and state courts together can hold authority over someone if the crime offends the laws of each group. Drug cases often fall into this category (think of transporting drugs, guns or other criminal materials across state lines for instance). When both systems have a say in how they are to proceed with a case, they will decide who will take over based upon the facts and circumstances of the situation. It is usually in a defendant’s best interest to have their lawyer keep them in a state court if possible as federal charges tend to be harsher and certainly more stigmatizing.

 

Who Can Hear What? How Can Courts ‘Reach Out’ And Pull Us In?

State courts can ‘hear’ a wide variety of cases that federal courts may not or choose not to. State jurisdiction is rather extensive in this way whereas federal jurisdiction is limited. A federal court has no real interest in bringing people before them for speeding and other traffic tickets. One common example of this split of authority on laws that we see all of the time at our office are for clients wanting to have their firearms restored in the State of Michigan. Convicted felons wanting to have a firearm returned to them may be able to do that with the state, although the federal government would not allow for it. So, to have a gun of any type and to use for whatever reason (usually for hunting or home and business protection) would be alright by Michigan but could still be prosecuted if someone were to run into a federal officer or agent – such as the FBI or the Drug Enforcement Administration.

 

Is It Really That Different? Are The Judges Any Different At Federal Than State Courts?

So, what about the judges that hear the cases? Under the U.S. Constitution, federal judges are appointed by the president and approved by Congress. Once accepted, they are on the bench for life. In Michigan, we have two U.S. District Courts, the Eastern and Western Districts. We frequently represent clients in these locations. If you have a case being held in a federal court, then likely you will have the same judge for the entire life of the case, whether it is plead out or it goes to trial. If, however, you are in a state court, it is possible that you may be bound over from a district to a circuit court if it is determined that a felony charge is possible. This would mean moving from one court to another and likely having to restart the process of being arraigned and setting a case for an examination or a pretrial hearing. New judge, new prosecutor, and higher stakes. Cases tend to get more backed up at the state, even local courts simply because of the amount of cases that are heard daily. Judges and prosecutors want cases to move through quickly so that courthouse dockets don’t get backed up for any number of reasons. People want their issues and situations resolved quickly, but fairly. For this reason, federal cases tend to progress a bit slower as the further up the line of jurisdiction that a case moves, the bigger its impact is. A practical effect is that lawyers and judges may spend more time preparing for and reviewing and arguing federal cases. Since the consequences of federal cases tend to be magnified, they are often resolved by a plea.

 

Why It Is Still Important That You Have A Lawyer – No Matter Where You Are

No matter where a case lands and who will be responsible for prosecuting and judging it, you will still be well-served by hiring a defense attorney to work on your behalf. People are afforded the right to have counsel present under the Constitution. Understanding how state and federal laws are applied to a particular set of facts and circumstances are to be determined on a case by case basis. You will want the benefit and protection that a criminal defense lawyer can provide. Whether your case is in being tried in a state district, circuit, or federal district court, please contact our office so that we can best help you begin to prepare a customized plan that will help you achieve the results you want.

 

Need a Michigan federal attorney? Contact Barton Morris for trial representation.

March 23rd, 2015|