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What Are The Differences Between Federal And State Crimes?

Federal crimes are offenses that fall under federal legislation and the jurisdiction of federal authorities. An offense is said to be a federal crime when it crosses state lines, is committed on federal property, or involves federal officers/personnel. In matters of jurisdictionEe, the type of offense committed usually determines the federal agency with the authority to investigate and prosecute the crime. These agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), United States Marshal Service (USMS), and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), among others. Federal crimes may include:

  • Bank robbery
  • Tax evasion
  • Murder and capital murder
  • Computer crimes
  • Identity theft
  • Aircraft hijacking
  • Mail and wire fraud
  • Weapons trafficking
  • Counterfeiting
  • Drug trafficking
  • Human trafficking
  • Immigration offenses
  • White-collar crimes
  • Organized crimes
  • Electoral fraud
  • Credit card fraud
  • Child pornography

State crimes, on the other hand, refer to illegal, criminal acts that fall under a state’s statutes and jurisdiction of state agencies. One major difference between federal and state crimes is that while an offense needs to be committed in multiple states before it can be considered a federal crime, state crimes need only be committed within a specific state. State crimes may include:

  • Murder
  • Arson
  • Traffic violations
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Domestic violence
  • Assault
  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Larceny

In some cases, a crime can be both a state crime or a federal crime. A crime is considered both when it violates both state and federal laws and as such may be tried and prosecuted under the laws of the state and the federal government.

How Does North Carolina State Court System Differ From the Federal Court System?

The North Carolina State Court System differs from the Federal Court System in the types of cases heard and reach of jurisdiction. In the Federal Court System, the apex court is the U.S. Supreme Court. The District Courts and Circuit Courts are the trial and appeal courts of the system, respectively. Federal judges are nominated by the President and appointed for life by the Senate, as per Article III of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S Attorney General appoints U.S attorneys to prosecute and defend federal cases. Generally, federal courts have limited jurisdiction, take longer to prosecute, and cases are investigated by federal agencies.

The North Carolina State Court System is divided into the Appellate, Superior Court, and District Court Divisions. The Supreme Court is the apex court, the Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court, and the superior and district courts are the trial courts in the State. All courts hear civil and criminal cases under their respective jurisdiction. Judges in the state are not appointed for life and have to be reelected—every 8 years for district court judges as well as for regular superior and appellate division judges. Special superior court judges serve five-year tenures. Judges and justices of the appellate division are elected by statewide voting while the Superior and District divisions are elected by voters in their districts. District Attorneys and their assistants represent the state in all criminal and some juvenile matters. State courts have general jurisdiction and cases are investigated by local and state law enforcement agencies.

How Many Federal Courts Are There In North Carolina?

There are 6 federal courts in the State of North Carolina:

  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina
  • United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina
  • United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina
  • United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina
  • United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of North Carolina
  • United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of North Carolina
  • The United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina serves 44 counties from Raleigh to the Atlantic Coast. Court sessions are held in 6 cities of North Carolina: Greenville, New Bern, Raleigh, Elizabeth City, Wilmington, and Fayetteville. The court is located at the following addresses:

United States Courthouse

201 South Evans Street

Room 209

Greenville, NC 27858

Phone: (252) 830–6009

Fax: (252) 830–2793

United States Courthouse

413 Middle Street

New Bern, NC 28560

Phone: (252) 638–8534

Fax: (252) 638–1529

United States Courthouse

310 New Bern Avenue

Raleigh, NC 27601

Phone: (919) 645–1700

Fax: (919) 645–1750

  • Mailing Address:

Clerk of Court

PO Box 25670

Raleigh, NC 27611

United States Courthouse

306 East Main Street

Elizabeth City, NC 27909

1003 South 17th Street

Wilmington, NC 28401

Phone: (910) 815–4663

Fax: (910) 815–4518

United States Courthouse

3rd Floor

301 Green Street

Fayetteville, NC 28302

Phone: (910) 483–7378

  • The United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina has 3 locations in Durham, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem:

US District Court

John Hervey Wheeler U.S. Courthouse

323 E. Chapel Hill Street

Durham, NC 27702

Phone: (336) 332–6000

US District Court

L. Richardson Preyer Courthouse

324 W. Market Street

Greensboro, NC 27401–2544

Phone: (336) 332–6000

US District Court

Hiram H. Ward Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse

251 N. Main Street

Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Phone: (336) 332–6000

  • The United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina has 3 locations in Asheville, Statesville, and Charlotte.

100 Otis Street

Room 309

Asheville, NC 28801

Phone: (828) 771–7200


200 West Broad Street

Room 304

Statesville, NC 28677

Phone: (704) 883–1000

401 West Trade Street

Room 210

Charlotte, NC 28202

Phone: (704) 350–7400

  • The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina is located in Greenville and Raleigh:

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Century Station Federal Building

300 Fayetteville Street

4th Floor

Raleigh, NC 27601–1799

Phone: (919) 856–4752

  • Mailing Address:

P. O. Box 791

Raleigh, NC 27602

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Randy D. Doub Courthouse

150 Reade Circle

Greenville, NC 27858

Phone: (919) 856–4752

  • Mailing Address:

P. O. Box 791

Raleigh, NC 27602

  • The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of North Carolina is located in Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Durham at the following addresses:

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Middle District of North Carolina

101 South Edgeworth Street

Greensboro, NC 27401

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Middle District of North Carolina

601 West 4th Street

Winston-Salem, NC 27101

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Middle District of North Carolina

Venable Center, Dibrell Building - Suite 280

302 East Pettigrew Street

Durham, NC 27701

  • United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of North Carolina holds court sessions at its Asheville, Charlotte, Statesville, and Shelby locations. Below are the addresses:

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Western District of North Carolina

100 Otis Street, Room 112

Asheville, NC 28801–2611

Phone: (828) 771–7300

Fax: (828) 771–7311

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Western District of North Carolina

401 West Trade Street, Room 111

Charlotte, NC 28202

Phone: (704) 350–7500

Fax: (704) 350–7503

U.S. Courthouse

200 West Broad Street

Room 301

Statesville, NC 28677

Phone: (704) 871–4280

Cleveland County Courthouse

100 Justice Place

Shelby, NC 28150

Are Federal Cases Public Records?

The common law right to inspect and copy judicial records allows any member of the public to request access to federal case records, except records that have been exempted from public access by statute or court 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 Courts Records Online

Usually for a fee, interested parties may access North Carolina federal court records online through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). Using PACER, anyone with an account may search and view records from specific federal courts. The PACER case Locator to search the nationwide index if the specific federal court that handled the case is not known. It is also possible to access some records by phone through the Voice Case Information System or look up court opinions of district, appellate, and bankruptcy courts. The information available to the public on PACER may include:

  • Names of all parties and participants involved in the case
  • Case-related information
  • Daily listings of new cases
  • Document images
  • Claims registry
  • Court opinions
  • Case status and judgments

Information on how to use the platform is available on the help page of the PACER website or by contacting the PACER Service Center during weekdays on (800) 676–6856 or by email. Parties may also contact the North Carolina Federal Court that handled the case for electronic case records that are not available on the platform.

How to Find Federal Court Records in North Carolina?

North Carolina has Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts. Members of the public may obtain copies of federal court records from the court where the case was filed for a fee. District court records between 1790 and 1978 and older records may be obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) through online, fax, email, mail, or in-person at a Federal Records Center.

The Eastern District Court offers court records, transcripts, records searches, and archived court records to the public via submission of a Public Request Form to the Clerk of Courts. There are fees attached depending on the record being requested. Copies of court records cost 50 cents per page and an extra $11 for certification. Transcript requests cost 50 cents per page; parties may also order transcripts that have not been created by request to the court reporter. Record searches cost $31 per name. Archive requests cost $64 for first box requests and $39 for additional box requests.

The Middle District Court records may be obtained at the Greensboro Clerk’s Office. There is no cost attached to viewing records maintained by this office. However, interested partie are required to pay 50 cents for each page of Case Management and Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) records. Each page of paper copies also cost 50 cents.

Parties may also send a letter to the Clerk’s office to obtain records or call the office on (336) 332–6000 to determine the preferred method for obtaining the records.

Interested parties may obtain Western District records from the Clerk of Courts for assessed fees. These fees are similar to those of the Eastern District.

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina makes public records prior to December 1, 2003, available through the Clerk’s Office. It costs $30 for record searches and an additional $.50 per page to copy records. Members of the public may also request records from the attorney who handled the case. Court records on or after December 1, 2003, are obtainable using PACER. Requesters who do not know how many pages there are in the record or what documents they need may contact the Case Administrator that was assigned their case number.

Copies of court records are obtainable by written request to the Clerk’s Office of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. It costs $.10 per page and $11 for certification. Court records of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of North Carolina are obtainable by contacting the Clerk on (704) 350–7500 for assistance or using PACER.

Can Federal Crimes Be Dismissed In North Carolina?

A dismissal occurs when a defendant is found not guilty of a criminal charge. In accordance with the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure, Rule 48, federal crimes can be dismissed in North Carolina by the court or government. The court has sole jurisdiction on dismissal while the government may only do so with the permission of the court. However, this occurrence is rare because more often than not, the charges do not meet the conditions for dismissal. A court may dismiss charges if unnecessary delays occur when bringing a defendant to trial, filing an information against a defendant, or when presenting a charge to a grand jury. The government may dismiss charges with permission of the court but may not dismiss the prosecution during trial except with the consent of the defendant.

How Do I Clear My Federal Criminal Record?

There are common law statutes that permit members of the public to access federal criminal records. Even then, certain records are either sealed or expunged by court order or statute to protect parties involved. Both options are remedies to prevent access to sensitive information but there is a key difference between the two. A sealed record is only hidden from public access and can be unsealed and accessed by court order while an expunged record is destroyed, as if the crime never occurred. Expungement is absolutely the better option, but it is not easy to expunge a federal criminal record without merit or pardon. As such, it happens rarely.

Federal criminal records which may be sealed include grand jury proceedings, national security secrets, identifying information of juveniles, victims, witnesses, and defendants, and trade secrets. The power to seal, unseal, or expunge a record rests with a federal judge who may order a record sealed if it is in the best interests of society and law. Conviction conditions by which a federal criminal record may be expunged include:

  • Convictions resulting from government misconduct
  • Convictions based on outdated or unconstitutional laws
  • Defendants under 21 years found guilty of drug possession with no priors, as given by the Federal First Offender Act §3607

Ex-offenders who want to expunge or seal their federal records must petition a federal judge in writing.

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