Criminal cases in the United States may be tried in federal and state courts if the act constitutes violation of the laws of both jurisdictions. However, most criminal cases are tried in state courts, because maintaining peace and order is primarily the responsibility of state and local governments. Important topics covered in this chapter include the territorial effect of judicial decisions, the principle of judicial precedent based on stare decisis, the extent of federal and state jurisdiction, the principle of dual sovereignty, the legal concepts of jurisdiction and venue, and the various sources of individual rights.
The incorporation controversy—how it developed and what role it plays in determining which constitutional rights now also extend to an accused in state prosecutions. It ends with a discussion of the rule of law. The United States has a dual court system, meaning that there is one system for federal cases and another for state cases.
The term dual court system is, however, misleading. In reality, the United States has 52 separate judicial systems, representing the court systems in the 50 states, the federal system, and the courts of Washington, D.C. But because these systems have much in common, they justify a general grouping into two: federal and state.