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The Difference Between Federal And State Laws

Last updated 6 years ago

United States law consists of two levels: federal and state. This system allows a degree of regional autonomy without compromising the integrity of the nation of a whole. Though highly effective, the differences between these two types of law can often be difficult to understand. Here is a brief overview of the differences between federal and state laws.

Regional Legislation

Individual states are allowed to pass legislation regarding a wide range of matters within their borders. That’s why you see states with different drunk driving laws, speed limits, policies on bail, etc. The United States is a big place with a lot of different kinds of people—it simply wouldn’t do to apply exactly the same laws to all of the people in the country. State legislation allows individual communities to set their own policies.

National Legislation

Though each state has their own set of laws, there are still plenty of laws that we all follow—for example, no state can print its own money. Though individual states have the power to create their own laws, the federal government has the power to declare certain laws unconstitutional. State laws and federal laws mesh most of the time, but sometimes they clash—the most famous and severe case being the Civil War, when the federal government tried to deny several states’ right to own slaves. Modern examples include medical marijuana, which, although legal in some states, is illegal under federal law.

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