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What Are The Differences Between Federal And State Crimes?

By definition, federal crimes are illegal acts that breach federal legislation enacted by Congress. State crimes are violations of the criminal laws of any U.S. state, they are referred to as state crimes. However, it is possible for a violation to be regarded as both a state and federal crime and, as such, be simultaneously prosecuted by federal and state courts. This may occur when the crime is committed in two or more states. In these instances, the affected states may bring action against the alleged offenders, and the federal government may do so too as the crime crossed state lines. Similar offenses where both governments may have concurrent jurisdiction including, but are not limited to, fraud, drug trafficking, weapons, kidnapping, and robbery. Some examples of federal and state crimes include:

  • Federal crimes: Counterfeiting, forgery, treason, murder, mail fraud, hate crimes, art theft from museums, tax evasion, crimes occurring on federal property, electoral fraud, identity theft, and biological/chemical weapons crimes
  • State crimes: Arson, assault, rape, sexual assault, child abuse, negligent homicide, manslaughter, prostitution, burglary, bribery, strangulation, threatening, and larceny

How Does the Connecticut Court System Differ From the Federal Court System?

In the two court systems, the prosecutors, judges, investigatory bodies, courts, sentences, as well as the regulatory, service-providing, and related agencies, differ. Crimes are investigated in Connecticut by local and state agencies, including the county sheriffs, police departments, and state police. As the state is tasked with providing evidence against offenders, prosecuting attorneys are appointed by the Criminal Justice Commission and serve in the 13 judicial districts. In the court system, crimes are heard and resolved by the Superior Court’s criminal division. The court has locations in the 13 judicial districts and 20 geographical areas of the state; major criminal matters are heard at the former and other criminal cases at the latter. Juvenile cases are heard at the court’s locations in the 12 juvenile districts. The Superior Court judges are recommended by the Judicial Selection Commission, selected by the governor, and confirmed by the Connecticut General Assembly. These judges serve a term of 8 years and are subject to reappointment by the same selection process. Sentencing for criminal offenses is covered under Ch. 952 of Connecticut General Statutes.

Meanwhile, in the federal court system, investigations are carried out by federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Secret Service (USSS), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), United States Coast Guard (USCG), and United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), among others. Here, the federal government is responsible for presenting evidence against offenders and does this through attorneys (or federal prosecutors) appointed by the United States Attorney. Federal judges are recommended by members of Congress, nominated by the U.S. President, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Unlike the district judges who have life tenure under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, the bankruptcy judges are not appointed for life but rather serve a term of 14 years, as given by Article I of the U.S. Constitution. Court procedures for criminal proceedings are guided by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Federal Rules of Evidence, and the Local Rules of Criminal Procedure. Whereas, sentencing for criminal offenses may be considered using the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, and are often harsher than the penalties of the state courts. Offenders who are tried in the federal district court may appeal their cases to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City.

How Many Federal Courts Are There In Connecticut?

There are 2 federal courts in Connecticut, namely:

  • United States District Court District of Connecticut
  • United States Bankruptcy Court District of Connecticut
  • The United States District Court District of Connecticut has courthouses in New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport:

Richard C. Lee
United States Courthouse
141 Church Street
New Haven, CT 06510
Phone (Clerk’s Office): (203) 773–2140
Fax: (203) 773–2334

Abraham A. Ribicoff Federal Building
United States District Court
450 Main Street
Suite A012
Hartford, CT 06103
Phone (Clerk’s Office): (860) 240–3200
Fax: (860) 240–3211

Brien McMahon Federal Building
915 Lafayette Boulevard
Bridgeport, CT 06604
Phone (Clerk’s Office): (203) 579–5861
Fax: (203) 579–5867

  • The United States Bankruptcy Court District of Connecticut is located in Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven:

United States Bankruptcy Court
Abraham Ribicoff Federal Building
450 Main Street, 7th Floor
Hartford, CT 06103
Phone (Clerk’s Office): (860) 240–3675

United States Bankruptcy Court
Brien McMahon Federal Building
915 Lafayette Boulevard
Bridgeport, CT 06604
Phone (Clerk’s Office): (203) 579–5808

United States Bankruptcy Court
Connecticut Financial Center
157 Church Street, 18th Floor
New Haven, CT 06510
Phone (Clerk’s Office): (203) 773–2009

Are Federal Cases Public Records?

Yes, federal case files are open to the public, except records made confidential or sealed by statute or court order. Examples of these confidential records include hearing transcripts, presentence investigation reports, juvenile records, and juror information. Members of the public may obtain judicial records by requesting from the court of record. This request can usually be done remotely or in-person at the relevant courthouse.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How To Find Federal Court Records Online

Federal court records can be obtained online through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). However, the requesting party must pay a fee to copy or view the records. To access PACER, members of the public are required to create or have a user account. Information on account creation and other questions on using the platform is available on the FAQ page. Users can also access how-to guides and manuals from the help page. Generally, it is possible to obtain the case files, docket information, court opinions, sentences, indictments, and other case-related documents from the platform. There is no fee assessed by the courts to look up court opinions. The help center can be contacted for inquiries on (800) 676–6856 or by email.

How To Find Federal Court Records In Connecticut?

Records from the United States District Court District of Connecticut may be found by visiting public access computers/terminals or requesting from the Clerk’s office in the New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport courthouses. The court charges 10 cents per page to copy files from the public access computers, 50 cents per page for requests made to the Clerk’s office, and $11 per document for certification. Other court copy fees may be viewed on the fee information page. Acceptable payment methods include cash, money order, bank checks, cashier’s checks, personal checks, and law firm checks. All checks are payable to the Clerk, U.S. District Court. The court also accepts credit card, debit card (Visa or MasterCard) in cases where payment is above $5. Electronic transcript requests may be made by completing the Transcript Order Form and faxing, or mailing it to the courthouse where the case was heard. Transcripts prepared by court reporters are obtainable by contacting the relevant court reporter by phone. People looking for older case files may initially query the court for the records. If unavailable at the court, the requesting party may order the record from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) through the Clerk’s office or order from the agency directly.

Can Federal Crimes Be Dismissed In Connecticut?

Yes, federal crimes can be dismissed in Connecticut under specific conditions. Rule 48 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure sets out these conditions. According to this law, the federal government may dismiss a crime only with the approval of the defendant or court, and the court may permit a dismissal only if unnecessary delays occur. Such delays include presenting charges to a grand jury, delivering evidence against the defendant, and bringing the defendant to trial. Failing this, a federal crime cannot be dismissed by the courts or federal government.

How Do I Clear My Federal Criminal Record?

Generally, the process of clearing a criminal record involves destroying or completely erasing the record. This way, the record does not show up in background checks and hinder financial, employment, or immigration pursuits. Although individuals convicted of state crimes in Connecticut may have their arrest records, convictions, and criminal charges expunged, and in some cases, automatically after a while, the same is not the case for federal offenders. While some federal records may be sealed to protect minors, informants, and defendants, a record may only be expunged as follows:

  • If the defendant is a first-time drug offender (under 21 at the time of conviction with no previous convictions)
  • By presidential pardon
  • Upon discovery of a clerical error or misconduct of the government
  • In cases where the federal government does not object
  • In the interests of justice and society

There is no singular application process for expungement as it is hardly granted under federal statutes. Therefore, interested parties may have to send a written petition to the federal district court. The Clerk’s office of the district court may be contacted for further information.

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