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The Difference Between Federal Crimes and New Mexico State Crimes

A crime is a violation of laws established by an authority. A violation of federal laws in the US is referred to as a federal crime. The state’s laws define state crimes. New Mexico state laws and federal laws regarding crimes have a lot in common. There are some key differences, such as:

  • The personnel involved in investigating federal crimes differ from state crimes. Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, United States Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, work with the US Department of Justice to investigate federal criminal cases. On the other hand, state crimes are usually investigated by local law enforcement agencies and the state police.
  • Another key difference is that the extent of federal crimes’ coverage usually involves more than one state, or it extends beyond the state’s legal borders. Also, the effects of a federal crime awful reverberate beyond a state. Examples include:
    • Internet Crimes
    • Financial Scam
    • Drug Trafficking
    • Human Slavery
    • Illegal Sale And Use Of Weapons
    • Crimes Against Nature
    • Genocide
    • Espionage
    • Offenses Regarding Immigration And Residence
    • Any Other Crimes Committed On Federal Government Property Across The Federation
    • Organized Crimes

The needed facilities and expertise required to investigate these cases are available only at the federal level. Occasionally, federal investigation agencies may need to partner with the locale law enforcement agencies where the crime was committed.

State crimes are usually limited to offenses committed within the state. Although they vary, they typically fall under one of these categorized crimes:

  • Sexual Crimes, e.g., rapes
  • Murders
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Robberies
  • Burglaries
  • Thefts
  • Arson
  • Larceny

When state crimes occur, the local law enforcement agencies such as the police or sheriff departments of the city or county are the first responders. Here the case is prosecuted at the court of jurisdiction in the county or city where the incident occurred. In some cases, the state police move in to investigate the case, then charge the offending party. If the state is not equipped to handle it, it is forwarded to the federal level for prosecution.

  • The prosecution process of federal crimes is usually more extensive and differs slightly from the state prosecution process. Suppose the defendant is found guilty, the court sentence for a crime that has been tried by the federal legal system is based on the guidelines provided by the federal law. Federal penalties for crimes are usually stiffer than that of state crimes. Federal criminals face incarceration in federal prison facilities. State criminals that face imprisonment in county jails or state correctional facilities.

How Does the New Mexico Court System Differ from the Federal Court System?

The rules of criminal procedure in federal courts are the same in all states. The New Mexico state legal system adopts some federal rules of criminal procedure and tailor-made regulations for the state judicial system. Furthermore, the election process of judges in federal courts differs from New Mexico state courts. Judges in federal court are elected by presidential appointment, having consulted with the Senate. In New Mexico, the election process of judges entails a hybrid of merit selection, partisan elections, and retention elections, usually overseen by a nominating commission. Federal judges are known to serve for longer terms than state judges.

Another critical difference is the representation of the prosecuting counsel in a criminal case. The prosecuting counsel in a federal criminal case is represented by an Assistant Attorney General appointed by the Attorney General Of The Federation. On the other hand, state criminal procedures usually have the District Attorney representing the prosecuting counsel.

Also, the federal court structure differs from the New Mexico state court structure. There are three basic levels of the federal court structure:

  • The Supreme Court of the Federation
  • The Court Of Appeals
  • Federal District Courts

New Mexico state court structure is much more stratified into different levels to meet the state’s needs. The highest court of jurisdiction in New Mexico is the Supreme Court. The Court Of Appeals follows this. Next are the District Courts, which are the trial courts of general jurisdiction in the state. Other courts of limited jurisdiction in the state include:

  • The Magistrate Courts
  • The Metropolitan Court (Bernalillo)
  • Municipal Courts
  • Probate Courts

Except for Probate Court, these courts of limited jurisdiction conduct preliminary hearings for some criminal cases.

How Many Federal Courts Are There in New Mexico?

There is one United States District Court that serves the 33 counties in New Mexico. There are four court locations in the state:

Pete V. Domenici U.S. Courthouse
333 Lomas Blvd NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

US Historic Courthouse
421 Gold Ave SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

U.S. Courthouse
100 N. Church Street
Las Cruces, NM 88001

Santiago E. Campos U.S. Courthouse
106 S. Federal Place
Santa Fe, NM 87501

U.S. Courthouse
500 N. Richardson
Roswell, NM 88201

Are Federal Cases Public Records?

The federal laws of the United States provide transparency of official activities to the citizens by granting anyone interested to view or copy government records. Federal cases are categorized as public records and, for the most part, available to the members of the public. The other side of this law is the federal judiciary’s right to withhold individual records from the public. A key consideration for determining a record as confidential is if the need for privacy outweighs the need for public knowledge:

  • Witness information that is yet to be official
  • Financial reports and business secrets
  • Information about national Security or international intelligence report
  • Any information where public knowledge can impair the right of any one of the parties to a fair trial
  • Information for which public awareness may put an involved party at a safety risk
  • Information about delinquent of persons defined by federal laws as juveniles
  • Any other information that the Supreme Court Judge considers confidential on its merit

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, 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 concerned. This includes information such as the city, county, or state where that person resides or was accused.

Third-party sites are independent of 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

The federal court system operates a national online index for cases heard in federal district courts. Interested users can access federal cases heard in the US District Courts of New Mexico using the Public Access Court Electronic Records system (PACER). To view federal court records, users must open an account first. Follow the instructions for registration of a PACER account. Cases heard at the Federal District Court in New Mexico can be accessed by going directly to search the US District Courts New Mexico Website for information. If the specific court is not known, use the PACER Court Locator to search for case information. The service is subscription-based. A page of case information on PACER costs 10 cents, while a single document is a maximum of $3. The federal judicial conference policy waives fees that are less than $30 per quarter. Payments are made through credit card transactions every three months.

How to Find Federal Court Records in New Mexico?

All requests for federal court records in New Mexico must be made in writing. Requesters have the option of submission by email, postal mail, or fax to the US District Court Clerk’s office located in the state. These are the mailing addresses and phone numbers:

US District Court
District of New Mexico
Pete V. Domenici U.S. Courthouse
333 Lomas Blvd NW, Suite 270
Albuquerque, NM 87102

U.S. District Court
District of New Mexico
100 N. Church Street, Suite 280
Las Cruces, NM, 88001

Santiago E. Campos U.S. Courthouse
US District Court
District of New Mexico
106 S. Federal Place
Santa Fe, NM, 87501

U.S. Courthouse
500 N. Richardson
Roswell, NM 88201
Phone: 505–348–2000
Fax: 505–348–2028

Be sure to have the following details included in the request:

  • Case number
  • case caption
  • document number if applicable
  • number of copies requested

If the case number or document number is unknown, contact the record section for the necessary information. Regular copies take about 3 hours to process, while certified copies take about 8 hours. See the fee schedule for the cost of regular copies and certified copies. An archived record attracts a retrieval fee in addition to copy expenses. Also, it takes much longer to retrieve archived documents- about ten days. See the fee schedule for the cost of request copies and retrieval of archived records. For audio files and transcripts, contact the record section for the price, or visit the court reporter and transcript information page. The public self-service terminals within the district federal court facility allow members to search for free documents. While viewing documents is free of charge, requests to print out will attract printing costs.

Can Federal Crimes Be Dismissed?

It is difficult to dismiss a federal criminal case. The degree of expertise invested in a federal criminal case by the investigating personnel makes it very rare to have a case dismissed. Unless the defendant makes a plea bargain, and the prosecutor chooses to drop the charges, dismissing a federal criminal case is nearly impossible. Some conditions that warrant the dismissal of a federal criminal case are:

  • If the defendant’s rights are violated in the criminal justice process by the prosecuting counsel, such action could predispose the case to dismissal.
  • If the defending counsel can prove to the jury that there are no grounds for prosecution.
  • Another possibility is if an arrest was made that did not lead to charges against the defendant.

If the defendant is later found to be culpable or fails to meet court requirements for a plea bargain, all dismissals can be reversed.

How Do I Clear My Federal Criminal Record?

The case’s court disposition at the district court level must first be dropped by the presiding judge to have a federal criminal record cleared. After that, the holder of the record submits a request to the Federation’s Attorney General’s office. Submission must be made through the federal district court with current jurisdiction on the case. If the criminal record did not lead to a conviction, the record is immediately cleared by expungement. Some criminal records qualify for expungement after a certain period for some drug offenses, and juvenile delinquency cases according to federal laws. The decision to expunge a criminal record is mostly at the discretion of the court. An essential requirement is that the defendant has met the requirements for clearing the criminal record. If the defendant has received a national pardon, such records may be sealed or expunged from public databases. Sealing records restrict access to the persons named in the record, the court authorized, or government authorized personnel. Expungement is a process that obliterates the records from the legal system, as though it never existed. Expungement releases the holder of the record of all responsibility for the crime.

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