There are 51 court systems in the United States. Each state has its own system, and there is also the federal system.
Depending on the nature of the crimes that the government is charging you with, the courts may hear your case in either a state or federal court. According to uscourts.gov, there are differences between the court structure and the types of cases heard between state and federal courts.
The federal court system invokes Article III of the Constitution. Specifically, the federal court system gets its authority over the state court systems due to Article III, section I of the Constitution. Meanwhile, in state courts, a combination of the Constitution’s authority and state laws establish them.
If the decision of a federal court dissatisfies you, you may appeal to the US Court of Appeals. In state courts, you will go to the intermediate Court of Appeals for the same purpose.
Types of cases heard
The federal courts will take cases that apply on a federal level. For instance, cases that deal with the constitutionality of a law go to federal courts. So do cases regarding laws and treaties of the US, admiralty law and habeas corpus issues. The majority of criminal cases go to state courts, along with issues surrounding wills and estates. Contract and tort cases also go to state courts. In the event that a state court is interpreting federal law, the US Supreme Court may choose to hear the case, as well.
Understanding the difference between the federal and state court systems may be paramount to your case. They are very similar, but the slight differences between the two may apply to you.