The definition of federal law is the body of law that oversees an entire country made up of separate jurisdictions or provinces. In the United States, federal laws are created by the federal government and apply in every state, governing the entirety of the US. These laws start as bills that are passed through both the Senate and House of Representatives, which together form the United States Congress. The bills will then either be signed into law by the President, passed over the President’s veto, or allowed to become law without a signature.
All of the current public federal laws, also known as acts, are arranged in the United States Code (USC), organized in fifty broad subject areas, and reflect the latest amendments within the legislation. These titles are further broken down by chapters and sections. There is also a Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which contains all the current rules and regulations passed by committees and departments, rather than Congress. This is published in the Federal Register, which is updated every business day to reflect the current legal rules and regulations in the US.
Federal lawmakers can only pass laws that concern federal or national interest and are a combination of criminal and civil statutes. The majority of issues that fall under federal law are those in which the United States is a party. These are typically broad topics such as immigration, civil rights, social security laws, or any violation of the constitution. Criminal cases that have the national interest at stake or cross state lines are also overseen by the federal government. For example, this could include crimes such as drug-related federal offenses, money laundering, and computer-related fraud. Any crimes which involve federal officers will also be overseen by federal courts.
Therefore, federal issues are typically more high-profile cases and involve issues of greater importance, receiving more interest from both the press and the public. However, there are far fewer federal crimes than state crimes. The majority of cases are overseen by the state governments.
Federal laws of the United States are complex to navigate and understand. To discover more, click on the links below to gain access to our resources that provide legal and legislative information that applies to the whole US. This includes the US Code and Cases, alongside an up-to-date version of the Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register.