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Massachusetts Court Records

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What Are The Differences Between Federal And Massachusetts Crimes?

Federal Crimes in the USA are offenses committed against federal laws. Law enforcement agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and many more are tasked with investigating such crimes. Federal crimes involve inter-state connections and hence, require more in-depth investigations and resources that are beyond the capacities of the state and local government. Some of the federal offenses include:

  • Hacking and e-mail fraud
  • Crimes related to internet sex
  • Offenses that occur on federal property
  • Drug trafficking
  • Weapon charges
  • Financial or white-collar crimes
  • Counterfeiting
  • Bank robbery
  • Bankruptcy
  • Money laundering
  • Animal cruelty
  • Identity theft
  • Destruction or damage of federal property

In Massachusetts, misdemeanors and felonies that violate the Massachusetts Criminal Code are known asstate crimes. An offense is regarded as a state crime when it occurs within the state’s borders and legislative authority. Such crimes are investigated and prosecuted by the Massachusetts State Police (MSP). Common examples of Massachusetts state crimes are:

  • Homicide and murder
  • Voluntary and involuntary manslaughter
  • Kidnapping
  • Simple and aggravated assault
  • Arson
  • Rape
  • Theft
  • Burglary

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

The major difference between federal courts and Massachusetts state courts lies in the types of cases handled and jurisdiction in which they operate. Nevertheless, the justice procedures practiced by both state and federal courts are similar. Federal court judges are appointed for life by the U.S. president and validated by the United States Congress. These judges decide cases questioning the United States laws, prosecute federal violations, and handle suits involving citizens of different states. Criminal offenses brought before a federal court are contained in the U.S. criminal code. Note that a bankruptcy court is associated with each federal district court in Massachusetts. Also, the U.S Attorney General reserves the privilege of appointing assistant attorneys to prosecute federal court cases.

The Massachusetts court system is divided into three tiers. The Massachusetts Supreme Court is the highest appellate court (court of last resort) and its decision is final. The Court of Appeal serves as an intermediate appellate court responsible for reviewing cases assigned to it by the Supreme Court. The trial-level courts have original, limited, and/or overlapping jurisdictions over varying degrees of cases. The MPS (Massachusetts Probation Service) was created to provide rehabilitative tools to offenders on probation while the OJC (Office of Jury Commissioner) provides randomly selected pools of jurors to every state court. State judges in Massachusetts are appointed by the State Governor with confirmation from the Governor’s Council.

How Many Federal Courts Are There In Massachusetts?

There is one federal district court, one bankruptcy court, and a federal court of appeals court located in the State of Massachusetts. These include:

  • United States District Court District of Massachusetts
  • United States Bankruptcy Court District of Massachusetts
  • United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

1. The district court in Massachusetts, otherwise referred to as MAD, is located in three counties: Boston, Worcester, and Springfield.

John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse

1 Courthouse Way, Suite 2300

Boston, Massachusetts 02210

Phone: (617) 748 9152

Office hours: 8:30am - 5:00pm

Donohue Federal Building

595 Main Street

Worcester, Massachusetts 01608

Phone: (508) 929 9900

Office hours: 8:30am - 5:00pm

United States Courthouse

300 State Street, Suite 120

Springfield, Massachusetts 01105

Phone: (413) 785 6800

Office hours: 8:30a.m - 4:30p.m.

2. The bankruptcy court in Massachusetts, otherwise referred to as MAB, is located in four counties: Boston, Worcester, and Springfield.

United States Bankruptcy Court

John W. McCormack Post Office and Courthouse

5 Post Office Square, Suite 1150

Boston, MA 02109–3945

Phone: (617) 748–5300

Fax: (617) 748–5315

Office hours: 8:30a.m - 5:00p.m.

United States Bankruptcy Court

Donohue Federal Building

595 Main Street, Room 311

Worcester, MA 01608–2076

Phone: (508) 770–8900

Fax: (508) 770–8975

United States Bankruptcy Court

United States Courthouse

300 State Street

Springfield, MA 01105

Phone: (413) 785–6900

Fax: (413) 781–9477

3. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit is located in Massachusetts. The court hears appeals from Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island federal district courts.

Physical Address:

John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse

1 Courthouse Way

Boston, MA 02210

Phone: (617) 748 9057

Mailing Address:

Office of the Clerk

U.S. Court of Appeals

U.S. Courthouse

1 Courthouse Way, Suite 2500

Boston, MA 02210

Are Federal Cases Public Records?

Federal court records are case files containing docket sheets, transcript of court proceedings and all other documents filed in federal cases. In reference to the Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc. case, federal court records are open to the public for inspection and copying. However, not all case files are accessible to the public. While a judge seals some case files due to sensitive information violating personal privacy, others are restricted by state statutes.

Apart from sensitive personal and financial information, other details included in case files that are not available to the public are:

  • Trial exhibits that are not part of the evidence
  • Notes written by court personnel or judges
  • Information about informants, witnesses, victims, and special intelligence

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

Federal court records in Massachusetts are available online through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). It is created by the federal judiciary to provide easy access to case files and docket information to the public through a centralized system. The nationwide electronic filing system is accessible using a PACER login. Users of PACER can gain access to:

  • The names of all the parties and participants, including judges, attorneys, and trustees
  • Compiled case-related information, such as causes of action, nature of the suit, and fines
  • The docket listing the case events by date
  • Claims registry
  • Listing of new cases each day
  • Court opinions
  • Case status and final judgments
  • Types of documents filed for certain cases
  • Images of documents

Each district court in Massachusetts holds and updates its records locally. As a result, some courts may not have the records requested by interested individuals. It is advisable to contact the Court before making a request and paying fees. Alternatively, requesters can use the PACER Case Locator for case files whose locations are unknown. Questions on how to use the federal e-filing are available on the FAQ page of the website.

How To Find Federal Court Records In Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, requesters can obtain federal court records by visiting, mailing, or contacting the relevant clerk of the federal district courts. Requesters should note that each federal district court maintains records of cases handled within its jurisdiction. Alternatively, interested persons can gain access to federal court records in Massachusetts by submitting a request form to the federal records center. Each complete case file costs $90 while a pre-selected document or docket sheet costs $35. Completed forms should be sent via mail or fax to:

Federal Records Center - Research Room

380 Trapelo Road

Waltham, MA 02452

Phone (Toll Free): (781) 663 0378

Fax: (781) 663 0154

Payments can be made via credit cards, money order, or check which should be payable to ‘National Archives Trust Fund’ (NATF). Older federal records can be accessed on the Archived Case Information Search webpage. Requesters seeking older documents must provide details such as the case year and number to obtain the files.

Can Federal Crimes Be Dismissed In Massachusetts?

It is possible to get a federal criminal case dismissed in Massachusetts. Based on section 48 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, this may occur when a defendant is acquitted of a crime, there is an error in the investigation, or the evidence that brought the defendant to court is insufficient. Cases qualified for dismissal are those that have passed the trial and prosecution processes. Prior to arraignment, there is no motion to get a federal crime dismissed in the state of Massachusetts as well as in other states in the United States.

Dismissed cases are not expunged. This means that cases with insufficient proof may be reopened following new evidence. Whenever a case loses facts and data, the presiding judge may be prompted to dismiss and postpone the case indefinitely. In such scenarios, case files are moved to dead dockets by the clerk of court, pending when it is rendered active again by the judge.

How Do I Clear My Federal Criminal Record?

A criminal record can limit a person’s access to housing, employment, public assistance, and civic engagement. Statutes allow members of the public to access federal criminal records. However, some records are either sealed or expunged by federal law or court rule, thereby keeping the public from gaining access to such criminal history files. Sealing/clearing federal criminal records are different from expungement, but the results are often similar.

Generally, a criminal record is sealed or restricted once the defendant is found not guilty. Sealing a record after conviction is rare, and the federal judge will determine if such action is in the best interest of the law. The judge is compelled to seal a criminal record if the convict’s representative provide justification showing that:

  • the record will not be useful in any future investigations
  • the record might be misused in the future
  • the record may put the society at risk

Based on the U.S. Federal First Offender Act, an individual with no prior convictions but found guilty of possessing a controlled substance can have the charges and conviction completely expunged provided that he is below 21 years old. Any other juvenile records may also be restricted or sealed if appealed under U.S. Code § 5038. Also, once a conviction is found to be unconstitutional, or due to government misconduct, the record will be dismissed by the Attorney General and sealed by the judge. Federal ex-convicts in Massachusetts wishing to seal or expunge their federal criminal records are required to petition a federal licensed judge in writing.

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