Key Differences Between the Federal Justice System and the State Justice System

Posted on in Federal Crimes

Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerWhen many people hear of the federal justice system, they may at first imagine tough United States attorneys and convictions that come with much harsher sentences in federal prison. Both of these are elements of the federal justice system, but there is also much more to it than just that. There are also many ways this system varies from the state justice system in Illinois. Below are just a few of the main differences between the two.

The Judges

According to the Constitution, federal judges are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. In most cases, federal judges hold these positions for life. The only exception to this is if they are charged with misconduct in which case, Congress will hold impeachment hearings and determine whether a judge should be removed.

State judges, on the other hand, are elected into their position and they are not guaranteed to hold it for life. If they wish to remain on the bench, they must run for re-election.

Types of Cases Heard

Perhaps the biggest difference between the federal and state justice systems is that they hear different types of cases. The state court will hear criminal cases when they involved an alleged violation of state law, most probate cases, family law cases, and most tort and contract cases.

Federal courts, however, hear cases where the constitutionality of the law is in question, cases that involve federal treaties and laws, bankruptcy cases, disputes that involve more than one state, and cases that involve ambassadors and public ministers.


The state has limited resources when it comes to investigating and prosecuting cases. However, the federal government has essentially unlimited resources at their disposal. This typically means that government agencies earnestly pursue individuals they believe to be guilty of a crime, and will stop at almost nothing in that pursuit.


The state courts are often extremely backlogged, meaning that cases move through this system at a sluggish speed. The federal courts, on the other hand, do not hear as many cases and so, they move through the federal justice system at breakneck speed, comparatively.

Chance of Success for the Prosecution

State attorneys will often take on a case if they think they have any chance of winning it. They may have a hunch that the case will end in a plea deal, but they still take on many more cases than federal prosecutors. United States’ attorneys, however, do not take on as many cases. They usually only pursue a case if they are fairly certain they are going to get the conviction and the outcome they are after. This makes defending these cases even more difficult, as the federal prosecutors typically already have a fairly strong case against the defendant.

Charged with a Federal Crime? Our Chicago Federal Defense Lawyer Can Help

If you have been charged with a federal crime, you need the help of an experienced Chicago federal defense lawyer that understands the system. You need the help of Attorney Garfinkel at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel. Attorney Garfinkel has the experience necessary to defend federal cases, and help you beat the charges. Call us today at 312-629-0669 to schedule your free consultation.


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