United States legal system

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The United States legal system is the full interconnected system of judicial, regulatory and governmental authorities who together administer and enforce the laws of the United States, operate the judicial system, and resolve judicial disputes and appeals. It consists of various official bodies at the federal, state and local levels.

Various official bodies[edit]

Federal courts address any legal issues covered by the statutes of the United States Code. They also hear any case falling under the jurisdiction of federal agencies. For example, this includes any crime in which a state boundary is crossed, which would then be handled by the FBI.

Federal courts[edit]

The federal court system is made up of several levels of hierarchical court. The top-level court is the United States Supreme Court. Below this are the District Court of Appeals. Below this is the United States District Courts, for various geographical areas as defined by the United States Congress.

State courts[edit]

State courts take a wide variety of forms, as defined by each state's legislature. For example, in New York, there is a Supreme Court which is actually the lowest-level trial court; its name is based on the fact that it is higher ranked than all administrative and local courts. The highest court in New York is the New York Court of Appeals.

Regulatory agencies[edit]

A wide variety of governmental agencies have the power to enact regulations and to enforce them. There are many examples. For examples, the SEC regulates the financial sector. The FAA regulates all air travel. In local communities, city agencies often regulate building codes and zoning laws.

Chances of being found not guilty[edit]

Statistics show that defendants are rarely found 'Not Guilty' by judges and juries.[citation needed] This may be because of the law of double jeopardy, which prohibits the defendant from being brought to court again on the same charges.[according to whom?] Typically if a case is unlikely to result in successful prosecution in court, the defendant is offered a plea bargain or the case may even be dismissed by the district attorney or judge. For example, in 2009, of the 167,209 adults arrested for felony charges in New York State, only 663 people were acquitted (about 0.4%) Over 100,000 were convicted - but many of those pled out to lower charges (only about 35,923 were convicted of a felony despite the initial arrest). Most of the rest were dismissed (sometimes upon completion of some kind of rehab program).


Penal system[edit]

The criminal courts have the power to try cases where a crime has been committed. Civil courts hears cases between litigants.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]