There are different types of laws. Federal laws apply to everyone in the United States. State and local laws apply to people who live or work in a particular state, commonwealth, territory, county, city, municipality, town, township or village.


Federal laws are rules that apply throughout the United States.  These laws apply in every state, such as:

  • Immigration law
  • Bankruptcy law
  • Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) laws
  • Federal anti-discrimination and civil rights laws that protect against racial, age, gender and disability discrimination
  • Patent and copyright laws
  • Federal criminal laws such as laws against tax fraud and the counterfeiting of money

There are 50 states and several commonwealths and territories within the United States.  Each has its own system of laws and courts that handle:

  • Criminal matters
  • Divorce and family matters
  • Welfare, public assistance or Medicaid matters
  • Wills, inheritances and estates
  • Real estate and other property
  • Business contracts
  • Personal injuries such as from a car accident or medical malpractice
  • Workers compensation for injuries at work

There are different counties, cities, municipalities, towns, townships and villages in each state, commonwealth or territory.  Some of them have their own system of laws and courts that handle:

  • Rent laws
  • Zoning
  • Local safety

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Last Reviewed: February 2, 2017