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What Are The Differences Between Federal And State Crimes?

Federal crimes are prosecuted by the federal government, investigated by federal law enforcement agencies, and tried in a federal court.In contrast, state crimes in Maine are prosecuted by the state government, investigated by state and local law enforcement agencies, and tried in a state court.

Federal crimes constitute crimes that:

  • violate federal law or the U.S. constitution
  • Occur on a federal property
  • Threaten national security
  • Involve movement across state borders
  • Are parts of larger federal operations or investigations.

Examples of federal crimes include;

  • Human trafficking
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Identity Theft
  • Mail Fraud
  • Organized Crime
  • Civil Rights violations
  • Bank robbery
  • Money laundering
  • Credit Card & ATM Fraud
  • Computer Fraud

State crimes are crimes that are not covered by federal law; that is, they do not directly involve federal law, federal property, and are committed within the limitations and jurisdiction of the state. In Maine, an offense is considered a state crime when it violates Maine Criminal Law. Examples of such crimes include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Drug crimes
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI)
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Burglary

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

The Federal court system comprises the district courts, circuit courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. The circuit courts are the first level of appeal, and the Supreme courts are the final level of appeal.

In contrast, the Maine Judicial system comprises three divisions namely;

  • The appellate courts,
  • The superior Courts
  • The district and Probate Courts.

The appellate division handles appeals from the state’s trial courts.

The superior courts are the trial courts in the state with original jurisdiction over most criminal and civil cases.

In addition to different structures in the court system, the Federal court and Maine Court system further differ in Jurisdiction, that is, the type of cases they are allowed to address by the constitution.

Jurisdiction:

While federal courts have limited Jurisdiction and only address cases that directly concern or violate federal laws enacted by the Congress and the U.S. constitution, state courts deal directly with all other cases that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the federal courts.

Federal courts address cases that impact multiple states in the country, interstate crime, and major crimes that concern national security or involve a foreign government.

State courts are at the core of the U.S judicial system because they address up to 80% of the cases dealt with in the country. They address cases of disputes or crimes that involve individual citizens and general issues that violate state laws.

On rare occasions, some cases may cut across the dual system and be tried within both systems, provided it violates federal law.

Cases in Maine are generally appealed in The superior or Supreme Court, while cases on the federal level are appealed in the U.S. supreme court.

Trial and Prosecution:

Judges in state courts are appointed by election. In contrast, all federal judges and Supreme justices are nominated by the President of the United States with the Confirmation of the U.S. senate. The federal judges hold lifetime positions until they retire, resign, die, or are impeached, while Justices in Maine hold their positions for 7 years before re-elections.

Cases that go to trial at the federal level are prosecuted by the Federal government, in a federal court, and represented by a U.S. Attorney or Assistant U.S. Attorney. Trial cases in Maine are prosecuted by the state and represented by an Assistant Attorney General or an Assistant District Attorney.

How Many Federal Courts Are There In Maine?

There is one federal district court in Maine, the United States District Court for the District of Maine. This Court handles federal cases within the state and occasionally hears state courts suits in Maine.

Court Locations

The federal district court has its headquarters at Edward T. Gignoux United States Courthouse in Portland, Maine, and another location at Bangor, Maine.

Portland

U.S. District Court, District of Maine

Edward T. Gignoux U.S. Courthouse

156 Federal Street

Portland, ME 04101

Phone: (207) 780–3356

Bangor

U.S. District Court, District of Maine

Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building & Courthouse

202 Harlow Street

Bangor, ME 04401

Phone: (207)–945–0575

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Maine holds its sessions in the following courtroom locations:

Bangor

MC Smith Federal Building

202 Harlow Street, 3rd Floor

Bangor, ME 04401

Phone: (207) 945–0348

Fax: (207) 945–0304

Mailing Address:

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

District of Maine

202 Harlow Street, 3rd Floor

Bangor, ME 04401

Portland

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

District of Maine

537 Congress Street, 2nd Floor

Portland, ME 04101

Phone: (207) 780–3482

Fax: (207) 780–3679

Mailing Address:

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

District of Maine

537 Congress Street, 2nd Floor

Portland, ME 04101

Are Federal Cases Public Records?

Federal courts grant access to public court records that are not sealed by judicial order or exempted by law. This means that any person can inspect or copy judicial records generated and maintained in federal courts.

These records are maintained in the form of case files that contain docket sheets and all other documents filed in the course of the court proceeding.

Sometimes, an individual may be denied access to federal court records due to the unavailability of the requested record. A record is usually sealed to protect the private interests of the parties of the case due to the presence of sensitive information. However, an inquirer may contest the judicial order in Court with reasonable cause to gain access to the record.

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 in 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 case files that contain docket sheets and other documents filed in a federal court case are maintained electronically. They are available online via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service. This service permits anyone with a registered account to access and locate electronically filed cases in federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. It also provides access to court opinions and case overviews. Inquirers may search the database by National index or by the name of the specific Court where the case of interest was filed.

The system charges a small fee of 10 cents per page and a maximum of $3 for access to a single document. However, access to court opinions on the system is available at no charge to a registered user.

Interested persons may also order old historical court records from the Federal Record Centers (FRC) through the Orders reproduction page on National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Records that are difficult to find on these platforms may be easily accessed with the help of the court clerk.

How To Find Federal Court Records In Maine?

Records that are difficult to find on PACER are most likely available at the Federal Court, where the case was originally filed. According to federal laws, the Court is obligated to provide access to public case files to any person on request. Hence, the first step to retrieving records from the federal Court is adequately requesting the records.

The Court Clerk is the official custodian of records in the Federal Court. The Clerk’s office handles filing and retrieval of case files within the Court by providing the inquirer all the necessary information required to obtain a case file. Requests are made based on what type of records are being sought.

Court opinions, for example, are retrievable at no cost from the Government Publishing Office (GPO).. The interested parties may contact the clerk’s office ahead to inquire about the availability of a court opinion and also for assistance on how to obtain them.

Clerk’s Office

(207) 780–3356.

If the inquirer is seeking access to transcripts of a particular case, the individual is advised to contact the Court Reporter directly. Although, it is important to know which exact court reporter transcribed a case.

The inquirer may contact the court clerk for information about the exact court reporter that transcribed the case of interest and details required to obtain the record.

Archived Records:

Idle files are sent to the National Archives and Records Administration in specific locations with a box number.

A request for a case file should be sent to the Clerk’s office in writing. The Clerk will provide all the required information concerning the availability of the record and how to obtain it. If the record in question is archived, the inquirer will be required to pay a retrieval fee of $64, which must be paid before the request is processed.

When payment is received, the clerk requests for the record from NARA, and in response, the closed file will be delivered to the clerk’s office within 5–7days. The inquirer will be contacted when the file is received.

On other occasions, when the individual prefers to request the records from Nara directly, he/she may call the clerk’s office to obtain details of the case file name, the case file number, the box location number, and the accession number.

With these details, the requestor may obtain the case files through mail or fax from NARA or review them onsite at the WALTHAM facility.

NARA

(781) 663–0130

Generally, the clerk’s office receives cash payments, money orders, checks, and major credit cards. All checks should be made payable to Clerk, U.S. District Court.

Can Federal Crimes Be Dismissed In Maine?

A case dismissal in Maine means that a lawsuit is closed, and the defendant was found “not guilty” of all charges by the Court with no conviction. Generally, dismissals in a federal court are guided by Federal rule 48 of Criminal Procedure, which maintains that dismissals can only be proposed by the Government or by the Court.

The Court typically dismisses a case when a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, according to the 6th amendment is being violated. Such unnecessary delays may include; delays in filing a charge against the defendant, presenting a charge to the jury, or even bringing the defendant to trial. The Supreme Court of the United States deemed the right to a speedy trial as fundamental and held that the sole remedy to its violation is “dismissal with Prejudice.”

If prosecutorial misconduct is also established that violates the defendant’s right to a fair trial, the Court will dismiss the case with prejudice

Dismissing a case with prejudice means that the case can not be re-opened or refiled; that is, the case is final. In this case, the case can only be appealed in the Supreme court but not be reopened for trial.

Although it is a rare occurrence in federal courts, a case may also be ‘dismissed with Prejudice”. This means that the case is being dismissed temporarily and can be re-opened or reasserted in the future. The motion, in this case, is usually moved by a prosecutor who may choose to do so for a few reasons; for example, when there is no sufficient evidence to affirm or establish the defendant’s guilt or if more time is required to address weaknesses in the case.

In this case, the charges may be re-filed or reopened; however, it must still be within the statute of limitations. If the statute of limitations is expired, the case will be dismissed with prejudice by the Court, never to be reopened.

How Do I Clear My Federal Criminal Record?

Having a criminal record, especially one with federal crimes, has several negative effects on an individual’s life. It could affect gaining employment opportunities, driving rights, child custody rights, etc.

Clearing a federal criminal record history through sealing or total expungement are ways of moving past the conviction and legally denying the conviction of the crime ever existed.

This is, however, a rare occurrence in federal criminal courts because unlike Maine state courts that have designated rules guiding sealing of convictions and expungements, federal courts don’t have statutes or rules specific for these processes. However, under extraordinary circumstances, federal courts may grant expungement orders or non-disclosure orders. Such a situation may include;

  • When the arrest was unlawful
  • When it is established that the arrest was solely to harass the defendant
  • When extreme law enforcement misconduct is established
  • When the arrest or conviction was based on a law or statute that was later deemed unconstitutional
  • When the order of expungement is necessary to preserve basic human rights
  • When a judicial determination of probable cause is impossible due to mass arrest.

When an expungement order is granted, all records within the Court’s Jurisdiction and the records maintained by other law enforcement agencies are destroyed.

However, the court order may not extend towards records in the press, search engines, and social media. Still, the conviction will not show up in a random background check after the order has been executed.

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