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The Difference Between Federal Crimes and State Crimes in Colorado

While there are similarities between the state laws in Colorado and the US Congress’s Constitution, there are critical differences between state criminal justice and federal criminal justice process. Federal crime investigations usually involve federal organizations or agencies’ personnel, while state criminal investigations are handled by the staff of state establishments or organizations. For example, the investigation process for a crime within the State of Colorado is dealt with by law enforcement agencies within the State, such as police departments and county sheriff departments. Federal crimes, on the other hand, engage federal investigatory staff such as the:

  • Federal Bureau of Information
  • Bureau of alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
  • United States Postal system and other federal based organizations that carry out investigations for the federation.

Federal crimes are also known to involve more than one state and are tried in federal court before judges that are appointed according to the constitution. In federal cases, the prosecutor is usually an Assistant Attorney General. State crimes are prosecuted by local District attorneys before state court judges. The judges of a state court operate within the state judiciary system.

Federal crimes are also defined based on the location of the incident. For example, if the crime occurred on federal Government property within Colorado, it can be defined as a Federal crime. Most federal crimes violate the federal constitution or involve a case where the United States is a party. Common federal crimes include:

  • White Collar crimes
  • Computer crimes
  • Crimes involving weapons
  • Crimes concerning foreign nations and entities
  • Trafficking of all types such as drug trafficking or child trafficking

The US Department of Justice handles federal crimes, while the Colorado State Department of Justice handles state crimes. Some categorized state crimes include:

  • Homicide
  • Assault
  • Robbery
  • Sex crimes
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Murder
  • Larceny-theft

The federal criminal justice process’s sentence is based on guidelines by the federal constitution, while state sentences for the same crime may vary. Persons convicted of federal crimes are incarcerated in federal inmate facilities located within the federation. However, state crimes incarcerate their convicts within state inmate facilities, which may be state-owned or county-owned.

There are similarities between the federal criminal justice process and the state criminal justice process. However, if an individual is being tried for the same offense in both courts, double jeopardy is enforced. According to the fifth amendment to the US Constitution, an individual cannot be prosecuted for the same crime twice. In such a case, both levels of jurisdiction may work together in the criminal justice process.

How Does the Federal Court System Differ from the State Court System of Colorado?

The judges’ appointment at the federal court is based on a presidential election on the Senate’s recommendations. In Colorado, the selection of judges is based on what is known as the Missouri Plan. The Missouri Plan originated in 1940 and used a non-partisan commission to select a list of judges and submit recommendations to the state’s governor. The federal court system comprises three main tiers of courts:

  • The Supreme Court of the United States: this is usually known as the Court of Last Resort. This court handles appeal cases from the Federal Court of Appeals or lawsuits between state governments and cases between the Federal Government and the State.
  • The United States Court of Appeals represents the intermediary between the Supreme Court and the Federal Trial Courts. The Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over some specialized court divisions of the federal court system, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review.
  • The District Courts are the courts of original jurisdiction of cases involving federal crimes. There are federal district courts located in each of the states of the federation. They also have specialized divisions such as the Court of International Trade, the Alien Terrorist Removal Court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Article 1, or 4 Tribunals. Within the District Court are bankruptcy courts that handle cases of bankruptcy filed within each State of the U.S. Federation.

The Colorado Court system runs a similar structure with a lot more customized internal stratification to meet the State’s legal needs. The state system also has the Supreme Court as its highest court of jurisdiction and hears appeals from the appellate courts or by discretion from the District Court of the State. Next is a Court of Appeals, which also hears appeal cases from the District Court.

The Colorado District Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction within the State. The 22 Judicial Districts serving the 64 counties in Colorado District Court have original jurisdiction over criminal cases and hear cases transferred from lower trial courts in the State. Lower trial courts in Colorado include County Courts, Municipal Courts, and Water Courts.

How Many Federal Courts Are There in Colorado?

There is one Federal District Court in the State of Colorado and is situated at four different courthouse locations:

Jury Division One
Alfred A. Arraj the United States Courthouse
Room A115
901 19th Street
Denver, CO 80294

Jury Division Two
US District Court
LaPlata County Courthouse
1060 E. 2nd Avenue, Suite 150
Durango, CO 81301

Grand Junction
Jury Division Three
Wayne Aspinall Federal Building, Suite 309
400 Rood Avenue
Grand Junction, CO 81501

Colorado Springs / Pueblo
Jury Division Four
212 North Wahsatch Avenue, Suite 101
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Anyone of the courthouses can be reached by phone by using these numbers:(303) 844–3924, (844)641–6610 (tollfree), and (800) 359–8699.

Are Federal Cases Public Records?

The Freedom of Information Act 5 USC chapter 5, subsection 52 of 1967, requires public records to be made available to public members upon request. In general, federal cases are accessible to the public under this rule. The Freedom of Information Act allows federal courts to withdraw certain case information from public access based on the following reasons:

  • When National Security must be protected
  • Trade secrets or financial information that is considered confidential by federal laws
  • The general information that is prohibited by federal law
  • When the right to privacy of the involved parties weighs more than the public interest
  • If the information to be disclosed can put an involved party at risk of safety
  • If public knowledge of the information may interfere with the proceedings of law enforcement
  • When a disclosure may lead to the circumvention of the law
  • Privileged information between government agencies
  • If the disclosure of information that can interfere with the right to a fair trial of the involved party
  • Any information concerning the oversight of financial institutions

A Supreme Court judge also has the right to decide what records should be kept from public disclosure based on discretion.

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 named 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 Colorado can be assessed using the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). PACER is a federal filing system that allows interested parties to locate federal court records remotely. The basic requirements are an electronic device and an internet connection.

Parties can search for a court for using any one of these identifiers:

  • Name of the involved party
  • The date the case was filed
  • Case number or docket number

The information obtained from federal court records using this filing system can be saved on the computer or printed out depending on a requesting party’s preference. All users must create a user account to begin using the database. Use the Frequently Asked Questions section on the website to obtain information about setting up a new user account. Court records are available for a fee as scheduled by the Colorado US District Courts Website. There is a flat fee of 10 cents per page of returned search results. Subscriptions are made quarterly, and if a user accumulates up to $30 within a quarter, subsequent payments waived for the remaining period. Persons who cannot afford the fees can request an exemption by filling out the PACER fee exemption request form.

Electronic access to federal court records is also available for free at the public access terminals within the Courthouse facility. Note that information obtained electronically by the involved party does not represent a certified court record. To have the record certified, a requester must write to the District Court Clerk to process copy requests. Call (303) 844–3433 for more assistance.

How to Find Federal Court Records in Colorado

The federal courthouse’s records unit that filed and tried the case maintains original copies of these records. To find a federal court record, decide the type of document to be requested and ascertain that it is available for public access. Next, locate the courthouse where the record of interest was filed. Documents filed five years ago, or more may have been archived with the Federal Records Center. The center is located at:

17101 Huron Street
Broomfield CO 80023

Visit the office of the Clerk of the District Court to request in person or writing. Read the instruction for requesting copies before making a request. For records located at the federal records center, request location numbers from the Clerk’s office for the specific case file. After that, contact The Federal records office at least 24 hours to request that the file be sent to the courthouse for review or copying. The retrieval fee is $53 per request.

Can Federal Crimes Be Dismissed in Colorado?

To dismiss a crime in federal courts is to drop the charges against the defendant. It is sporadic to find federal cases being dismissed because there is a rigorous investigation process that makes it difficult for a defendant to be wrongly charged with a crime. There are three ways a case can be dismissed:

  • Straight dismissal: if there were a violation of the defendant’s rights while collecting evidence before the main trial, e.g., a search of the defendant’s residence without a warrant, such cases would be dismissed summarily.
  • Grand jury dismissal: when the defense attorney can convince the grand jury that the case is void of merit, it would be dismissed.
  • Deferred prosecution: the third category is often common; when the prosecutor agrees to dismiss a case based on a plea bargain by the defendant and a willingness to accept legal obligations.

Anyone of these dismissal types can be reversed the moment there is overwhelming evidence that the defendant is guilty. If the defendant fails to meet the obligations initially agreed upon, the dismissal would be reversed in a plea bargain.

How Do I Clear My Federal Criminal Record?

Federal criminal records are difficult to remove due to the criminal justice process’s public nature. However, persons who were found not guilty may have their records withdrawn from public access. When a record is sealed, it is removed from public access, but it is accessible by the involved parties and law enforcement agencies. It does not mean that the criminal record does not exist, but it only restricts who has access to it. On the other hand, expungement refers to complete removal of the criminal records and all associated information from the system. When a record is expunged, the individual can deny the charges or the existence of that record. The index ID of the case file remains with the judiciary, but all information concerning it is destroyed. The destruction of a federal criminal record does not render the record inaccessible to authorize federal agencies’ delegates if there is a need for it. Other cases that qualify for expungement areL

  • Drug offenses by persons under 21 years, having completed a supervised drug rehabilitation program according to subsection 862(c) of the United States Constitution
  • First-time drug offenders under 18 years of age are currently on probation under the United States constitution subsection 3607(a)

To begin, submit a written petition to the attorney general of the federation through the defending attorney. If the conviction was wrongful, all the case was dismissed, such request is approved without any waiting. Cases of underage drug offenses that qualify for restricted access are processed within a three-year waiting period. Within this timeframe, the attorney general confirms that the alleged individual does not have any pending legal obligations.

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