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Federal and state courts have different processes

Just as with every other state in the U.S., Georgia has its own unique laws, constitution and court system. If you run afoul of these, you are likely to face criminal charges in the state. Depending on the circumstances of your alleged crime, you could find yourself facing federal charges, instead. At Conaway & Strickler, P.C., we often help our clients understand the differences between state and federal court processes.

The state's prosecutor or district attorney will bring a case against you in a state trial or district court, the U.S. Department of Justice explains. In a federal court, the person bringing the case against you is a U.S. Attorney. In state court, the judge may decide your case, or you may find yourself in front of a grand jury. In federal court, your pre-trial motions may be heard by a federal magistrate judge, but this person is not who will issue a ruling. A grand jury is required if your case is a federal felony charge unless you opt to waive that right.

Some offenses are defined at the state level while others are federal offenses. However, some offenses are illegal at both the state and the federal level, so if you violated one such law, you may find yourself facing both state and federal charges. The penalties may not be the same, though. You may find that Georgia's penalties for the conviction are much harsher than the federal penalties, or vice versa. 

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure define every aspect of a federal criminal trial. More information about federal criminal cases is available on our webpage.

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