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What is a Federal Statute?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A federal statute is a law passed by the federal government of a country and indicates law that must be followed by citizens of the country. These laws often involve major issues that pertain to citizens of the entire country, rather than more local issues that may be established through state or city laws and ordinances. Such laws can also be applicable to the states or provinces within a country, allowing federal statutes to indicate how issues between regions can be handled and also establishing what powers and rights those regions have. A federal statute is usually established by officials within a federal government and upheld by other government agencies.

Also called federal laws, a federal statute is typically found in countries that have multiple levels of government within the country. For example, a nation like the US has a federal government that oversees the entire country, state governments that oversee the operations of individual states, and municipal governments that deal with local issues. In this type of structure, each level of government can establish laws to allow it to deal with matters that it is best suited to handle.

A federal statute is usually the highest level of law for a country and often deals with major issues likely to affect every citizen. These laws often indicate the rights that all citizens within a country have and what powers and rights states or provinces within a nation have as well. Such statutes are typically established and enacted by officials within the federal government. A federal statute in the US, for example, is usually created and voted on by the US Congress and signed into law by the president of the US.

Since a federal statute is typically established in a country with multiple levels of government, it is possible that federal laws can come into conflict with provincial laws. This has been seen in the US where several states have legalized the use of certain drugs, while these drugs remain illegal at a federal level. Different countries can deal with these issues in different ways, and in the US the federal statute will typically overrule a state or local statute. Of course, this all depends on how such laws are enforced, and in the US the state laws are typically enforced by state police while federal officers and agents enforce federal laws.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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