Differences Between Federal Crimes and Nebraska State Crimes
Generally, Nebraska state laws and federal laws have similar interpretations of what a crime is. However, the differences lie in the process, penalties and facilities. The process of investigating and prosecuting a federal crime is quite different from the investigation and prosecution of Nebraska state crimes. The federal criminal justice process is usually more detailed, takes longer, and much more elaborate. Also, personnel within the law courts that are prosecuting and the defense counsel are often those with expert experience in federal law matters. Federal crimes involve expert personnel from federal agencies such as the FBI, DEA, ATF, USSS, the Military Post Service, the US Department of Homeland Security Seal, US Citizenship and Immigration, etc. In the case of state crimes, the law enforcement agencies that are resident within the county or city where the incident occurred at the first responders to the crime incident. In some cases, the state police handle the investigation and eventual prosecution of the Crime.
There are differences in the penalty sentences served to federal convicts from state convicts. Even when it is the same crime, the guidelines for issuing penalty sentences are different. Generally, federal penalties are often stiffer than state penalties.
Federal convicts are detained in federal prison facilities across the Federation, depending on the crime’s nature. In contrast, state convicts are held in local jails or state correctional facilities in Nebraska. It is important to note that there are more violent crimes in state criminal justice systems than there are in federal systems. Most criminal offenses can be prosecuted both at the state level or federal level. They may be federal crimes for which the national legal system permits the state criminal justice system to handle. The degree of complexity or involvement with other States or borders of the Nation often determines whether the federal criminal prosecution process will be adopted.
examples of federal crimes are:
- All trafficking crimes including human trafficking, drug trafficking, and sex trafficking
- All crimes that are related to immigration and residency
- Crimes involving the illegal use of weapons, such as illicit sale and purchase of guns and firearms
- Professional crimes
- Internet fraud or computer crimes
- Counterfeiting money
- Violence against nature
Most crimes that are prosecuted by the state come under categorized crimes and associated felonies, such as:
- Sexual offenses
- Domestic violence
- Aggravated assault
It is possible for the federal legal system and the state judicial system to prosecute a crime concurrently. However, double jeopardy law enforces that no convict will be punished twice for the same crime.
How Does the Nebraska State Court System Differ from the Federal Court System?
Federal judges preside over cases in federal courts. These judges are appointed on presidential notice, having been cleared and approved by the Senate. State judges preside over cases in state courts and are selected based on merit selection and retention elections. Additionally, Assistant US Attorneys appointed by the Attorney General of the Federation are in charge of of prosecuting counsels in federal crimes, while District attorneys or city attorneys of the State of Nebraska prosecute state crimes.
The federal court structure has three significant tiers, two of which are appellate Courts: the Supreme Court of the Federation, the Federal Court of Appeals. The third category is the trial courts of the Federation- Federal District Courts, which are located in all states of the Federation. The Nebraska Court structure has a much more stratified system:
- Appellate Courts: the Nebraska state Supreme Court, and the State Court of Appeals
- District Courts
- County Courts
- Juvenile Courts: Sarpy, Lancaster, and Douglas counties
Each of these courts handles cases of crimes either at the preliminary level or exclusively.
How Many Federal Courts Are There in Nebraska?
The District of Nebraska is home to one United States District Court that serves the entire state. There are three Court locations in Omaha, Lincoln, and North Platte. The North Platte Court sessions are held at the Lincoln courthouse. The addresses are as follows:
Roman L. Hruska Federal Courthouse
111 South 18th Plaza
Omaha, NE 68102
Robert V. Denney Federal Building
100 Centennial Mall North
Lincoln, NE 68508
Lincoln County Courthouse
301 North Jeffers St.
North Platte, NE 69101
Are Federal Cases Public Records?
Most federal records fall under the category of the public record according to the National Freedom of Information Act of 1967. This act allows citizens and anyone to view and copy public records. Most federal cases are public records; however, there are restrictions on specific information that federal courts consider confidential in the US. Often, the defining principle of a record as confidential is when secrecy benefits outweigh the benefits of public knowledge. Sensitive information includes:
- Trade secrets
- Financial report of agencies and corporations
- Unofficial witness accounts
- Intelligence information from international sources
- Information that is crucial to the security of the Nation
- Any other information that may jeopardize the safety and chances of any involved party to a fair trial
Most juvenile records in federal cases are kept confidential, especially about some drug offenses and other delinquency cases. There may also be specific information that the supreme court judge of the Federation considers confidential. When a federal public record is confidential, it is often sealed off from open access. Subsequently, access to such records will be based on the eligibility of the individual to view them. In many cases the persons eligible to view confidential federal documents are:
- The persons involved in the case
- Their attorneys
- Authorized Court stuff and law enforcement agencies
- Any individual bearing a court order or an executive Order
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
As with all federal records, individuals interested in paying the required processing fee can access these records from anywhere, using a computer device and an internet connection. The Public Access To Court Electronic Records (PACER) is the federal online portal for court records filed or heard in federal courthouses. There is a universal requirement to open a user account. Use the instruction page to get directions on how to open a user account. It is a subscription-based service where payments are made every three months. The cost of accessing a single page of a document is 10 cents. The maximum value of all documents viewed within a quarter is $3. Additional fees will be waived based on the federal courts’ policy to make records more accessible to inquirers. The PACER online system allows individuals to access files of cases in Nebraska and other federal courts across the country. Federal court records of cases in Nebraska District can be accessed by going directly to the state District Court site. Visit the US District Courts’ PACER locator page and follow the instructions.
How to Find Federal Court Records in Nebraska
All records of federal court cases filed and heard in Nebraska are available at the clerk’s office of the courthouse where the case was filed. All requests must be in writing and submitted either in person or by mail to the relevant courthouse. There are three courthouses in Nebraska. Decide which one is of interest and contact the clerk’s office using the appropriate phone numbers below:
Omaha: (402) 661–7350, (866) 220–4381
Lincoln and North Platte: (402) 437–1900, (866) 220–4379
All mailed requests should be submitted only to the Omaha Courthouse:
Roman L. Hruska Federal Courthouse
111 South 18th Plaza
Omaha, NE 68102
Records less than five years old will be available in paper form as well as electronic format. Electronic copies are accessible within the courthouse by using public self-service terminals within the facility. This service is free. However, requests to print out pages may attract printing costs. Certified copies are not available in electronic format. Therefore contact the office of the District Court clerk to request certification. Certification requests are processed at the Lincoln or Omaha’s clerk office. Certification costs $11 for a document and 50 cents for a copy of each page. Be sure to include in every request the following:
- The case number
- Document number
- A check or money order
All the records or records before 2005 may be unavailable at the Courthouse immediately. Such files are accessible at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). It costs $64 to retrieve a record from the Federal Records Center or NARA. The District of Nebraska provides smart scan options for requesting records. The federal records center Smartscan allows documents filed with the center to be scanned and sent to the clerk’s office in real-time for delivery to the requester. The Smartscan service costs a total of $19.90 and 65 cents per page. Record searches cost $31 per name. A standard federal court record request must contain the following:
- The name of the person listed in the record
- The case file number or docket number
- The date the case was filed or heard in court
- The type of record requested, that is, electronic copies of hard copies or 3D. Transcripts may also be available for recorded court hearings at a fee. See the court fee schedule for the prices of different documents.
Can a Federal Record Be Dismissed?
Federal records are seldom dismissed. Unless the charges did not lead to a conviction, most federal crimes take a lot of time and processing, reducing error chances. There are a few occasions that may warrant the dismissal of a case:
- Suppose the prosecuting counsel or investigating team violates the defendant’s rights, which invalidates the prosecution evidence. This can happen if the prosecuting counsel or investigating team proceeds to search a defendant’s apartment or property for evidence without a search warrant. Such evidence is not even brought before the court because it could invalidate the entire case and lead to dismissal of charges.
- If the defendant files a plea bargain and the prosecuting counsel decides to drop the charges, the case could be dismissed. Again it depends on the nature of the case. Severe felony cases are not at the discretion of the prosecuting counsel to dismiss.
- If the jury is convinced that there are no probable grounds for prosecution, then the defendant’s charges can be dismissed. It is also uncommon because a preliminary step in the prosecution process of a crime in federal cases to first obtain probable grounds for prosecution, which is done by jury hearing.
Note that all cases of dismissal can be reversed if there is evidence that the defendant was guilty, or has defaulted in legal obligations as in a plea bargain.
How Do I Clear My Federal Criminal Record?
Most federal criminal records by the laws of the Federation cannot be erased. However, if the defendant receives a pardon or a dismissal of charges, they may qualify their records dismissed. Some drug offenses under the first offender act also qualify to be removed from public view, provided the individual has met all legal requirements such as court supervision. Furthermore, most juvenile cases in federal courts regarding delinquency are qualified for clearance when the individual involved Athens the legal age of adulthood that is 21 years. There are two ways to clear a federal criminal record: sealing an expungement.
Sealing a record means that the document is restricted from public access. As such, the file is available only to a few eligible persons. Sealing a record is not a permanent criminal record removal process, but it protects the individual from public knowledge of their criminal history. Government-authorized agencies and employers, however, have access to these records. Individuals who wish to access a sealed record must present a court order and a written record request.
Another way to clear a criminal record is to expunge it. The expunction of criminal records deletes the account of the criminal history from the legal system and associated files of information that may be present with all personnel involved in the criminal justice process. Juvenile delinquency cases qualify for expungement upon request as well as defendants who had charges against them dismissed. It takes about three years to process a request to clear a federal criminal record, although persons acquitted have their requests processed immediately. To request to remove a criminal record, write an application through the district court judge of the court that handled the case to the attorney general of the Federation. Better still engage the services of an experienced attorney to provide legal advice.