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When Do Criminal Law Cases Qualify Under Federal Jurisdiction?

As a citizen of the United States, you have constitutional rights that are protected. When you are involved in a criminal case that has violated those constitutional rights, or where you are seeking legal action against (or in defense) a foreign country, or legal action pursued from another state, your case may be heard at the Federal Court level.

There are some important things to know if you are a plaintiff or defendant in a federal legal case. Should you take your case to Federal Court?  What are some of the advantages and considerations that Texas citizens need to know if they have been summoned to appear in Federal Court?  We will answer some of these questions, and explain how the Federal Court process works, what cases are eligible to be heard, and other considerations for plaintiffs or defendants to evaluate when deciding between State and Federal Court proceedings.

How Quickly Do Federal Cases Proceed Compared to State Cases?

In criminal law charges that are seen at the State Court level, cases can be delayed several months to over a year or longer.  The time between the date of your criminal charge and an assigned court date in State Court depends largely on the volume of cases being seen in Dallas Court, the nature or severity of the crime, and whether you are a first time or recurrent offender.

The good news is that at the State level, this gives both the accused and their criminal attorney time to prepare a strong defense.  However, legislation written in the ‘Speedy Trial Act’ (18 U.S. Code § 3161.Time limits and exclusions) requires that an indictment in Federal Court must be pursued within thirty (30) days after a citizen’s arrest.

For more complex felony charges that require pretrial motions, this time limit can be extended up to 70 days post-arrest, or after the indictment is returned against the individual. And there are provisions to further extend the requirement, where a Judge has declared a mistrial in the first proceeding.

Because Federal cases proceed at such a quick rate, it is important to act quickly and retain an attorney who has experience in Federal Court.  Britt Redden, Managing Partner of Redden Law PLLC in Dallas, is an approved and certified Attorney for the United States District Court, Northern District of Dallas.

Why Do Cases Go to Federal Court?

While the majority of criminal cases are heard at the State Court of Texas, a number of criminal cases (depending on the nature of the crime and terms of defense) will be heard at the Federal Court level.   Federal Courts are only permitted to hear cases that involve the United States Constitution (or a violation of civil rights or federal statutes).

In some rare cases, the jurisdiction of the Texas State Court and Federal Court will overlap, meaning the defendant could choose to have their case seen in either State court or Federal. It is the right of the defendant to choose the best option for their case, with the guidance of an experienced trial criminal defense attorney. There can be a great strategic advantage to choosing Federal Court, vs. a State of Texas trial.  For instance, the jury for a Federal case is selected from a broader geographic area, external to your local community. This is a benefit if media sources have covered the case in the news with misinformation or facts that can prejudice a local jury against a plaintiff or defendant.

In some cases where a deadline to file suit has been missed at the State level, the plaintiff may still be able to file a complaint in Federal court, as the statutes of limitations are more generous for Federal cases.

Some Federal cases involve diversity jurisdiction.  Where the amount of property or loss is equal to (or greater than) $75,000 and where all of the plaintiffs are located in other states, Federal court proceedings are required.  This is to help apply the Federal laws unilaterally to avoid discrepancies or conflicts that can exist in legal requirements from one state to another, by applying the same Federal requirements regardless of the ‘diversity of citizenship’ or where other plaintiffs involved in the case reside.

However, this only applies to civil cases, as criminal cases may not be brought under diversity jurisdiction. State criminal charges must be heard in a State of Texas court, whereas a charge against an individual (civil or criminal) of the United States vs. [defendant] must be heard in a federal court. Judges in Federal Court are individually appointed by the President of the United States and then confirmed with the consent of the Senate.

Federal courts hear fewer cases than those managed at the State level.  However, when a case does go to Federal Court, it tends to be of great public interest, relating to a protected constitutional right that has been violated.

What Kind of Cases Are Heard in Federal Court?

There are a limited number of cases that can be heard at the Federal Court level, but the important thing to remember is that the case must impact one or more aspects of U.S. constitutional law, in order to qualify for Federal Court.

Here are some examples of cases that qualify for a Federal trial:

  • Property rights, plagiarism or violation of copyright goods, plans, works or products. This can be representative of a plaintiff suing another entrepreneur, a corporation for copyright or patent infringement, or other violation of protecting business and intellectual property under established business laws.


  • Cases between a plaintiff and defendant, that involve property loss, damage or theft of $75,000 or more, where the parties live in different States. This can involve a private citizen suing a State government (external to Texas) over water or land rights.


  • Defense or plaintiff cases involving a Texas diplomat against another foreign government, where ambassadors or public ministers of the United States are suing or being sued by another foreign country.


  • Private citizens who wish to sue the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a violation of civil rights. Individuals who wish to sue their local law enforcement would be seen in the State Court of Texas.


  • Admiralty, or a United States Citizen who is the subject of a legal suit in international or domestic waters, against a foreign country. This can include import or export violations or dispute, where a collision between water vessels has occurred and liability or loss in excess of $75,000 is involved in U.S. owned ocean, or Great Lake shipping channels.


  • Cases of drug distribution, importing or sales where the individual has been charged, arrested or is currently incarcerated for illegal activity in another foreign country. This also includes criminal charges laid by foreign countries, where the American citizen is not currently incarcerated and is living in the United States, or crimes involving money laundering.


Federal cases are high stakes, even more so than criminal cases at the State level. For example, probation or early release from incarceration has been abolished in Federal cases.  Individuals who are successfully convicted of a crime in Federal Court will have to serve their entire sentence, with eligibility for only fifty-four (54) days credit for ‘good time’ in sentences served for longer than a year, or 12 calendar months.  Individuals convicted of a crime in Federal Court will serve a minimum of 85% of their ordered incarceration time and sentence.

Federal cases can be high-profile and require the expertise of a seasoned Federal trial lawyer.  Do not choose legal counsel who specializes in State criminal law cases; there are skills you are going to need to successfully win your case and prepare a defense for a Federal Jury.  Choose Britt Redden, from Redden Law PLLC for your Texas Federal Court case.


When the Red and Blue lights are lit, call Britt!

Schedule your free legal consultation.