The Difference Between Federal and Alaska State Crimes | CourtRecords.org
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What Are The Differences Between Federal And Alaska State Crimes?

Infringement of the United States Criminal Code is a federal offense, and violators are liable to be charged and prosecuted. The federal government has jurisdiction over criminal cases that occur on federal property or areas mainly reserved to the federal government by the U.S. constitution. Federal crimes are investigated by federal agencies such as C. I. A., Interpol, F. B. I., and U.S. attorneys serve as prosecutors. Federal agencies can as well investigate and prosecute crimes that are typically handled by the states. However, a violation becomes a federal crime when it moves from state to state. The federal court has three different levels: district court, circuit court, and the Supreme Court. Illegal acts known as federal crimes include;

  • Mail fraud
  • Aircraft hijacking
  • Carjacking
  • Kidnapping
  • Bank robbery
  • Child pornography
  • Credit card fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Federal hate crimes
  • Animal cruelty
  • Counterfeiting currency
  • Illegal immigration or unlawful residency
  • Crimes committed on federal property
  • Embezzlement
  • Tax evasion
  • Drug trafficking
  • Illegal possession of firearms
  • White-collar crimes

State crimes are misconducts that go against the state’s criminal law. In the United States criminal justice system, most prosecutions at the state level occur in county courts or municipal courts. Police officers and sheriffs investigate behaviors that contradict state laws, and city or state attorneys serve as prosecutors. Examples of state crimes in Alaska are:

  • Assault
  • Robbery
  • Domestic violence
  • Burglary
  • Sexual assault
  • D. U. I.
  • Child abuse
  • Rape
  • Battery

A crime can be prosecuted in both state court and federal court if it is initially investigated by the state law enforcement agencies and federal agencies at a particular time. Although the double jeopardy clause prevents the same crime from being prosecuted twice, an exception can be made in federal and state court cases even if the courts operate separately. Hence, the clause does not apply here.

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

Firstly, the disparity between the federal court system and the Alaska court system are the agencies in charge of making findings. That said, federal government parastatals investigate crimes classified as federal offenses and agencies set up by the state government to attend to state crimes. Secondly, federal magistrate judges conduct the hearing of criminal cases at the federal level (pre-trial motions). However, the magistrate judges do not give the final judgment for cases filed at the court. Thirdly, grand juries must charge defendants in federal legal actions, but if the accused relinquishes the grand jury’s indictment, then the jury is not necessary. Courts can try a defendant in both state and federal systems. Stages involved in a criminal prosecution are:

  • Investigation
  • Charging
  • Initial hearing/arraignment
  • Discovery
  • Plea bargaining
  • Preliminary hearing
  • Pre-trial motions
  • Trial
  • Post-trial motions
  • Sentencing
  • Appeal

Trial courts in Alaska preside over cases filed with the court initially. These Trial courts include the superior court and the district court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme court usually assigns the superior court judge to serve a one year term. The superior court judge, in turn, selects magistrate judges. Lastly, there are area court administrators assigned to carry out administrative tasks in each district. For a criminal trial, crimes are presided over by district court judges referred to as federal judges, and grand juries are not required. The federal government and state government put laws in place that make individual acts illegal. Every jurisdiction is accountable for setting aside penalties for persons that go against the laws. At times, punishments meted out for committing state crimes can be less severe than offenses against the federal law.

How Many Federal Courts Are There in Alaska?

The state of Alaska has one federal court:

  • United States District Court for the District of Alaska

The United States District Court for the District of Alaska has five diverse physical locations at Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Nome. The addresses are:

U.S. District Court

222 W. 7th Avenue, Room 229, Box/Suite #4

Anchorage, AK 99513

Phone: 1 (866) 243–3814 (toll-free)

Phone: (907) 677–6100

U.S. District Court

101 12th Avenue, Rm 332

Fairbanks, AK 99701

Phone: 1 (866) 243–3813 (toll-free)

Phone: (907) 451–5791

U.S. District Court

709 W. 9th Street, Rm 979

Juneau, AK 99801

Phone: 1 (866) 243–3812 (toll-free)

Phone: (907) 586–7458

U.S. District Court

648 Mission Street, Rm 507

Ketchikan, AK 99901

Phone: (907) 228–8822

The location of the NomeU.S. District Court at Nome is temporarily unavailable because the court is moving. Parties can contact this court at (907) 443–2259.

Are Federal Cases Public Records?

Yes, federal records are available to the public and are easily accessible according to the statute Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act of 1974. The only limitation to review documents generated from federal cases in the United States is when the requested record is sealed or expunged. Documents made confidential by the court are restricted for many reasons, such as if the offender is a minor or if the information contained in the case file could cause injury. However, U.S. attorneys and individuals with court permission can retrieve private or sealed records. Additionally, cases in federal courts are mainly bankruptcy cases, criminal cases, and civil cases.

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 Court Records Online

Case files of individuals charged for committing federal crimes are available electronically through Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER).. Also, parties can access a vast amount of court documents from United States federal courts using PACER. These records include filed documents from the United States Courts of Appeals, National Courts, U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, and U.S. District Courts. The use of PACER comes with a cost. For documents downloaded up to 30 pages, the requester is required to pay $3. The charges on PACER do not apply to searches that are not case-specific, name search, or transcripts from federal district court hearings. With PACER, interested persons have easy access to the following details;

  • All the parties and participants’ names, including judges, attorneys, and trustees in a particular case
  • A compilation of case-related information, such as the cause of action and nature of the suit
  • A list of the case events by date
  • A claims registry
  • A listing of new cases each day
  • Appellate court opinions
  • Judgments or case status
  • Images of documents.

Asides PACER, most federal courts in the United States maintain a virtual database to store records of court action and make court files accessible to interested persons. Additionally, the United States has a Federal Court finder where interested parties can search for federal court records by court name or location.

How To Find Federal Court Records In Alaska?

Transcripts, dockets, and other files generated from federal cases can be ordered online, via mail, in person, or over the phone by contacting Alaska Court System at (907) 274–8611. There are some records specifically restricted by law and are not available to the public. To retrieve federal court records in Alaska, interested parties can make a written request to the Clerk of Court Office at the specific district court where the legal action took place. The applicant should include details about the records required to aid identification.

Persons who wish to obtain court records for federal cases can walk into the courthouse where the case was filed to make inquiries. Some charges may be required to make copies of court documents. Electronic access to federal case files is granted by Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER),, Federal Court Finder, or online data bank managed by each district court. The program may charge fees for reproduction.

Can Federal Crimes Be Dismissed In Alaska?

Federal cases can be dismissed in Alaska; however, the instances are rare and can only occur under the following conditions:

Lack of Evidence: Documents from federal court proceedings can be dismissed during the initial hearing due to an error in the document or lack of proper evidence provided by the prosecutor. In this situation, the judge will have no other option than to dissolve the case and acquit the defendant.

Unavailability of a Witness: If a witness is unavailable or inaccessible at the moment where the individual is supposed to testify in court or substantial physical proofs that should be available isn’t, the prosecutor will have to dismiss the case and declare the defendant not guilty. The presence of a witness or physical proof is quite critical to federal cases, and an attorney cannot institute legal proceedings against the defendant. Additionally, disappearance, death, or any casualties that befall a witness, thereby put the prosecutor in a position where the case must be dismissed.

Anomaly in Arrest or Search: The appellate court can issue an order to dismiss a case if there is evidence showing a bad arrest or search. After examining the rest of the case, and there is no evidence showing that the defendant would be arrested for that crime, there is no need for a second trial. In other words, if the defendant’s attorney can prove there was a bad arrest and the case is reversed without enough proof supporting the arrest, the court may conclude that there is no other evidence tying the defendant to the crime.

Mistake in Criminal Complaint: If an officer of the law charges an individual and writes a complaint, the officer must sign the document under oath, thereby giving credence to the document’s content. The information contained in the charging document or complaint is acted upon by law enforcement agencies. If the charges filed against the defendant do not conform with law placed by the state or if there is an error in the documentation, then that can result in the dismissal of the case because the prosecutor cannot change/edit the document. Changes can only be made by the officer that signed the complaint under oath before being handed over to the court.

How Do I Clear My Federal Criminal Record?

In most states, criminal records can be expunged a couple of years after completing the sentence. Currently, the United States does not have an extensive set of statutes allowing federal records’ expungement for different offenses. Even in federal circuits where a judge has the power to expunge a record, it is rare for a judge to give an order to destroy evidence of criminal trials. The judge must find it in the “interest of justice” to expunge a federal criminal history record, as the destruction of federal case files is reserved for exceptional cases.

Interested parties can visit the district court where the court proceedings took place to request an expungement. Parties must fill out an application in the clerk’s office, or a letter can be written and sent to the judge. The request letter should contain details of the particular records to be expunged and tangible reasons the court should consider the petition. Convincing the judge to expunge a record will most likely require an outstanding attorney to put persuasive and compelling words together in the letter directed to the judge. It is also challenging to determine if the court will allow a hearing for the request. If there will be a court appearance, a convincing presentation is necessary for the judge to give an order for expungement.

According to federal law 18 U.S. C. 3607(c), an individual guilty of a charge such as a minor drug offense under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S. C 844) is eligible for expungement.

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