Texas Court Records
What Are The Differences Between Federal And Texas State Crimes?
A Federal Crime is an offense criminalized by Federal legislation. On the other hand, state crime is an act made illegal by State law. Criminal activity is prosecuted at the federal level when it affects federal or national interests; these include—
● A crime that involves federal officers or that happens on federal land
● A crime where the offender crosses state borders
● Any crime where the criminal act crosses state lines
● Customs and immigration offenses
Examples of federal crimes include tax offenses, counterfeiting, and forgery, money laundering, human trafficking, etc. By the Texas Penal Code, examples of state crimes are robbery, burglary, theft, arson, bribery, etc.
An act can be a federal crime and a state crime when it violates federal and state laws. In such situations, either the Federal Government, the state government, or both can prosecute; this is because, under the law, the state is a sovereign separate from the United States.
Offenses that can be both state and federal crimes include weapon charges, drug trafficking, child pornography, etc.
How Does the Texas State Court System Differ From the Federal Court System?
When a federal crime is committed, the first step taken is either an investigation or an arrest. Depending on the crime committed, this stage can involve different federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, etc.
Once an arrest is made, the prosecutor can charge the suspect through a grand jury or a citation or violation notice. Where the alleged crime is a felony, a grand jury indictment is required. Thus, the evidence is presented before a set of impartial citizens. These citizens then determine whether the suspect should or should not be charged. However, if the offense is a misdemeanor, it does not have to be brought before a grand jury. A citation or violation notice can be used to charge the accused.
Once charged with a crime, the suspect can either hire an attorney or get a public defender. After this charging process, the next step is the initial hearing. The accused is, at this stage, brought before a magistrate judge. The judge, at this point, decides whether or not to grant the defendant bail.
Before the trial begins, the prosecutor and the defense attorney prepare by gathering evidence and talking with witnesses. The prosecutor must provide the defendant with copies of the materials and evidence required for trial. This discovery process continues from the beginning to the end of the court trial.
In circumstances where the Government has a strong case, the prosecutor can offer the defendant a plea deal. The plea deal may reduce the defendant’s exposure to a more lengthy sentence. The defendant can agree to the plea deal and admit guilt in Court before the judge. If this happens, there would be no trial.
Instead, the next step would be sentence hearing. However, where the defendant pleads not guilty, the Court would hold a preliminary hearing. If the defendant is in jail, the preliminary hearing must hold within 14 days of the initial appearance. Where the defendant was granted bail, the time limit is extended to 21 days.
At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution introduces evidence and calls witnesses. While the defense is allowed to cross-examine the witnesses, it cannot object to the use of any evidence. At this point, the judge can either dismiss the charges or move the case to trial.
Where the judge believes that there is probable cause and moves the case to trial, the next step is the pretrial motions. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney can file and respond to motions. The judge alone has the power to grant or dismiss a motion.
A motion is an application to the Court to obtain a ruling, order, or direction. Examples of pretrial motions are motion to dismiss, motion to suppress, and motion for change of venue. After the pretrial motions have been filed and responded to, the trial begins.
At the beginning of the trial, the prosecutor and the defense attorney selects the jurors for the case. Twelve jurors are picked randomly from a pool of potential jurors amassed from voter registration records. During the trial, the prosecution and the defense present it’s cases.
At this stage, witnesses are called and examined by both sides. The prosecutor and defense attorney can object to a question or piece of evidence. At the close of the trial, the defense rests its case, and the jury delivers and announces the verdict.
For a defendant to be convicted, the jury must arrive at a unanimous decision. The verdict is read in open Court, and if found not guilty, the defendant is free to go home. However, if the defendant is convicted, post-trial motions can be filed. This includes Motion for a New Trial, Motion for Judgment of Acquittal, etc.
Few months after the conviction, the defendant returns to the Court for sentencing. If the defendant believes the conviction to be wrongful or the sentencing too harsh, an appeal can be made to the Circuit Court. The defendant can still appeal the decision of the Circuit Court to the Supreme Court.
The Texas State criminal prosecution process is similar to the federal prosecution process, with some key differences. The first step is also the investigation or an arrest. When arrested, the suspect is arraigned, and the bond is set. After this, the judge may grant the suspect bail subject to Article 1, Section 11 & 11a-b of the Texas Constitution.
Like in the federal court process, if the offense is a felony, it requires indictment by a grand jury. Once the defendant has been charged, the prosecutor and the defendant may try to negotiate a deal. This is done to avoid trial, and the process is called plea bargaining.
If the case goes to trial, the defendant can choose to have a trial by jury or trial by a presiding judge. If it is a trial by jury, the jurors are selected from the county where the Court is located. At the end of the trial, the judge or jury gives the verdict. If found guilty, the judge sentences the defendant.
After the conviction, the defendant can appeal the decision to the Texas Court of Appeals. If unsatisfied with the Court’s decision, the defendant may also appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.
How Many Federal Courts Are There In Texas?
There are four federal judicial districts in Texas, the Eastern, Northern, Western, and Southern Districts. The Eastern District of the State of Texas has six federal court divisions. The Beaumont, Lufkin, Marshall, Sherman, Texarkana, and Tyler Divisions. The contact information of each Division is on the website of the United States District Court.
Abilene, Amarillo, Dallas, Fort Worth, Lubbock, San Angelo, and Wichita Falls are the divisions in the Northern District. Any of these seven court districts can be contacted through the information available on the Northern District’s website. The Federal Court for the Southern District Of Texas is at Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Galveston, Houston, Laredo, McAllen, and Victoria.
The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas is a federal district court with seven divisions. The seven divisions are at Alpine, Austin, Del Rio, El Paso, Fort Hood, Midland-Odessa, Pecos, San Antonio, and Waco. To seek assistance from the Western District, the requester is to complete a request form.
Are Federal Cases Public Records?
U.S Code Title 44 § 4101 mandates the Superintendent of Documents to maintain an electronic directory of Federal electronic information. The same section also grants the public access to such federal public information stored electronically.
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 person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from 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 Courts Records Online
Federal Court records are maintained electronically and are accessible through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service. The service allows the requester to search and locate federal court records. To search for any record, the requester must first have an account.
To register a PACER account, the requester is required to provide information like first and last name, address, email, and phone number. There are also different account types, which include Government, commercial, and individual.
The commercial accounts include commercial business, creditor or creditor’s representative, educational or research institution, investigator, law firm, media, a non-profit organization, a service provider to the legal sector, sole proprietor, and trustee accounts.
Individual, student, attorney, and a case’s plaintiff, defendant, or debtor are the options provided for individual accounts. Government accounts consist of the federal Government, federal judiciary, and state or local government accounts.
After creating an account, the requester can search directly for the Court where the case was filed. If this information is not known, the PACER Case Locator can be used to find the case. To search for cases filed in Texas federal courts, the requester needs to know the District where the case was filed.
The Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern District each has its own PACER database. To gain access to any case information, the requester must pay a fee of $0.10 per page and $3.00 per document. This fee is not applicable to name searches, transcripts of federal court proceedings, and reports that are not case-specific.
The Judicial Conference policy, however, provides that the fees should be waived when the usage is $30 or less for the quarter.
How To Find Federal Court Records In Texas?
Federal Court records in Texas that are older than 15 years are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration office at Fort Worth. The office is at
1400 John Burgess Drive
The requester can also contact the National Archives and Records Administration via fax, phone, or email at:
Fax: (817) 551–2034
To access records that are less than 15 years, requesters must contact the Court where the case was filed. The clerk of the Court keeps and maintains such records. Where the case files have been archived, the requester can visit the Federal Records Center at the National Archives office.
Can Federal Crimes Be Dismissed In Texas?
In sporadic cases, federal crimes may be dismissed in Texas. By Rule 48 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Court can dismiss the information, indictment, or complain in any of the following situations:
● Where there is unnecessary delay in filing a report against a defendant
● Where the prosecution delays needlessly in presenting the charge to a grand jury
● Where there is a needless delay in bringing a defendant to trial
The United States attorney or the Attorney General can also file for the dismissal of the case. This filing must be by leave of the Court and with the defendant’s consent. The prosecutor may dismiss the case due to
● Insufficient evidence
● A violation of the Fourth Amendment
● Procedural issues
● The willingness of the accused to help in solving other crimes
A grand jury can also dismiss the charge at the pretrial stage. This happens when the jury believes that the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence to put the accused on trial.
Where an individual with no previous drug conviction is found guilty of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, the Court can dismiss the charges under U.S Code Title 18 § 3607(a).
How Do I Clear My Federal Criminal Record?
The Federal Government does not have a regular system for clearing criminal records. However, certain crimes allow the expunction or sealing of the offender’s criminal history. For instance, the files are sealed when the Court dismisses a case under U.S Code Title 18 § 3607(a).
Also, where a minor is convicted of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance and dismissed under U.S Code Title 18 § 3607(a), the criminal records can be deleted. This is according to U.S Code Title 18 § 3607(c).
As already stated, no general federal expungement statute exists. Despite this, several courts have held that the Federal Court has the inherent authority to expunge criminal records; this is carried out, especially where an arrest or conviction is discovered to be invalid, or a clerical error made.
Any person seeking expunction of federal criminal records must prove that:
● The records will be of no use in future criminal investigations
● The records do not assist in protecting society
● The misuse of the records in the future is likely, or that
● The Police demonstrated extreme wrongdoing
In applying for expunction, the applicant begins the process by filing a motion with the appropriate Court. The relevant Court is the Federal Court, where the case was tried. After completing the application, the Court has the discretion in deciding whether or not to delete the records.