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Difference Between Interstate and Intrastate

The concepts of interstate and intrastate apply to the world of business, transport, politics and economy and affect rules, laws and regulations. The term interstate refers to something that involves more than one state whereas the concept of intrastate refers to something happening within the border of one state. The two ideas are particularly relevant when we talk about trade, transportation or business.

For instance, in the United States there are different regulations for companies that only act within one state (i.e. California) and firms that have their legal headquarters in one state (i.e. California) but are also active and sell their products in other states (i.e. Arizona, Arkansas, Tennessee, etc.). In the same way, carriers and trucks that only run within one state have to respect the state’s regulation, while those that cross the state’s borders are overseen by the Department of Transportation and have to abide by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations.

Legal disputes also differ when different tribunals and courts are involved. In the United States, every state has his own tribunals and, while all need to respect federal law, there are differences among the specific laws that apply in all the 50 states. The concepts of interstate and intrastate do not only apply within the United States, but to all countries divided into smaller states where interstate and intrastate norms regulate actions and behaviors within the individual states as well as the actions and instances occurring outside the state’s borders.

What is Interstate?

The term interstate refers to anything that implies or involves more than one state. This concept usually applies to all countries divided into smaller states, such as the United States, but unified by one central government.

In the US, individual states enjoy a rather large degree of autonomy and can have different norms, rules and regulations – to the point that lawyers can only operate in one state unless particular circumstances emerge or unless they take the so-called bar exams in other states. Yet, at the same time, states have to respect the US Constitution and general rules that apply to the entire American population. Individual states also have independent tribunals, but there is a federal judiciary system entrusted with higher authority and power. Federal regulations and federal bodies have the authority to regulate all interstate activities and create the framework for interstate relations to happen.

What is Intrastate?

The term intrastate refers to anything happening within the borders of an individual state, such as companies with legal headquarters in California only operating and selling their goods in California, or trucks only running within the borders of the state. In this case, only the laws and regulations of the state apply as far as tax payments, bureaucratic and legal matters are concerned. For instance, in the case of carriers, only the state’s laws apply, and not the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulation enforced by the Department of Transportation. The same is true for other forms of business, bureaucratic procedures and communications. Companies operating only within one state and trucks or carriers not crossing the state’s borders have to comply with only one set of rules and standards – which can be more or less strict from state to state – and bureaucratic and administrative complications are less frequent.


Similarities between Interstate and Intrastate

The concepts of interstate and intrastate are rather different: the first refers to anything that includes more than one state while the other refers to anything happening within one state’s borders. Yet, at a closer look, we can identify some similarities and aspects in common between the two:

  1. Both concepts mainly apply in the case of countries that are divided into smaller states or else in the case of group of countries unified by a common set of regulations. For instance, in international relations the concepts of interstate and intrastate war refer to conflict among different states – all parts of the international system – and within individual states (i.e. between government forces and rebel groups); and
  2. In both cases, there are specific sets of rules and regulations that come into place. In addition, national and state laws often continue to apply even in the case of interstate matters.


What is the Difference between Interstate and Intrastate?

Even though they are often examined in relation to concrete applications such as business or trade, the concepts of interstate and intrastate have wider and broader applications. The two are substantially different and entail different sets of legislations, rules and regulations.

Authority of Interstate and Intrastate:

what happens within one state is regulated by the state’s rules, whereas what happens among various states (i.e. business, transport, etc.) is often regulated by higher authority bodies or by widely accepted interstate regulations;

War of Interstate and Intrastate:

in the case of intrastate wars, the sides involved are generally the government, rebel groups and/or terrorist groups. In the case of interstate wars, various countries are involved and fight each other. The laws of the war apply in both cases, but in the case of intrastate wars, it is harder for the international community to act, as the conflict takes place within the borders of a sovereign country. Conversely, when interstate wars occur, international organizations – and particularly the UN Security Council – can take action to stop the conflict. However, in many cases intrastate wars escalate into international conflicts, like in the case of the Syrian conflict that started from clashes between the government and some rebel groups but has now turned into a large scale war that sees the involvement of a number of countries and alliances;

Scope of Interstate and Intrastate:

while the term intrastate only refers to anything happening within the borders of an individual state, interstate can have a broader scope, especially if analyzed in the context of the United States. For instance in the case of commerce, trade can be interstate if it happens between a company A located in one state and a company/customer B located in a different state or in a place outside of the United States. Interstate commerce can also happen between two entities in a state through another state or through a place outside the US. Finally, interstate trade can occur between two places or parties in a state as part of trade originating or ending outside the state or outside the United States.

Interstate vs Intrastate

Although the difference between the two concepts may appear rather intuitive, there are a number of aspects, regulations and rules that we need to take into account, especially when we talk about interstate business and trade. Building on the differences outlined in the previous section, we can identify other aspects that differentiate the two concepts.

Interstate and Intrastate comparison

The term intrastate refers to anything happening within the borders of an individual state whereas the concept of interstate involves more than one state. The two are often used in the context of the US or of any other country divided into smaller states, which enjoy a certain degree of autonomy. Intrastate and interstate often refer to trade, commerce, business and transportation, but the two concepts also apply to politics, wars and conflicts.

In the case of intrastate trade and business, the firm involved only trades within a single state, whereas interstate commerce includes trade between state A and state B, trade between state A and a place outside the United States as well as trade originating or finishing outside the United States. In the case of intrastate conflicts or business, the law of the state apply, whereas in the case of interstate disputes and commerce there usually is a superior set of laws and norms that regulate actions and transactions. At the same time, companies and firms operating at the interstate level must continue to respect the rules and regulations of individual states, in particular of the state where the trade is originated and of the state where customers are located.

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References :

[0]Dowling, Noel T. "Interstate Commerce and State Power." Virginia Law Review (1940): 1-28.

[1]Levy, Jack S. "Theories of interstate and intrastate war: A levels-of-analysis approach." Turbulent peace: The challenges of managing international conflict (2001): 3-27.

[2]Tarnay, Robert S. "Methods for Differentiating Interstate Transportation from Intrastate Transportation." Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 6 (1937): 553.

[3]Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-person-in-formal-attire-doing-shakehands-886465/

[4]Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/arrows-box-business-chalk-533189/

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