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What is the Difference Between Federal and State Crime in Alabama?

Federal crimes are offenses that are investigated and prosecuted by federal law enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), United States Secret Service (USSS), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Federal crimes are tried in federal courts, under the United States federal laws. Some offenses classified as federal crimes in the U.S include:

  • Treason
  • Counterfeiting of money
  • Cybercrime
  • White-collar crime
  • Violations of civil rights
  • Public corruption
  • Drug trafficking
  • Terrorism
  • Violent crime
  • Arms trafficking

Alabama state crimes are offenses that violate the state's criminal code. These crimes occur within the state's jurisdiction. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and local Sheriffs are responsible for investigating crimes in Alabama. State crimes include:

  • Arson
  • Robbery
  • Drug abuse
  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Motor vehicle theft
  • Kidnapping
  • Bribery
  • Gambling
  • Larceny

How Does the Alabama State Court System Differ from the Federal Court System?

The Federal court system guides the procedures used to decide cases dealing with the United States federal laws while the Alabama court system hears cases pertaining to the violation of state laws.

The Alabama Court system has three levels, where cases are heard:

  • District Courts
  • Circuit Courts
  • Supreme Court of Alabama

Cases heard by the state district court can be appealed at the circuit courts, while the circuit courts are split into three divisions; the municipal court's division and the probate courts division. The Court of Civil Appeals handles appeals of circuit court civil cases while the Court of Criminal Appeal hears appeals of criminal cases. The Supreme Court of Alabama serves as the highest court level and hears cases from the appeal courts.

How Many Federal Courts are There in Alabama?

There are three federal courts in Alabama:

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama hears federal cases in Alabama's northern district. It has locations in Birmingham, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Anniston, Decatur, and Florence. Their addresses are thus:

Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse
1729 5th Avenue North
Birmingham, AL 35203
 (205) 278-1700

United States District Court
101 Holmes Avenue
Huntsville, AL 35801
 (256) 534-6495

Tuscaloosa Federal Building and Courthouse
2005 University Boulevard
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
 (205) 561-1670

United States District Court
1129 Noble Street
Anniston, AL 36201
(256) 741-1510

Seybourn H. Lynne U. S. Courthouse & Post Office
400 Well Street
Decatur, AL 35601
(256) 584-7950

John McKinley Federal Building
210 North Seminary Street, Room 202
Florence, AL 35630
(256) 760-8415

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama has three courthouses in Montgomery, Opelika, and Dothan:

Frank M. Johnson Jr U.S. Courthouse Complex
One Church Street,
Montgomery, AL 36104
(334) 954-3600

Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
100 West Troy Street,
Dothan, AL 36303
(334) 954-3600

G.W. Andrews Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
701 Avenue A,
Opelika, AL 36801
(334) 954-3600

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama has is located in Mobile city and Selma city:

155 Saint Joseph St.
Mobile, AL 36602
(251) 690-2371
908 Alabama Avenue
Selma, AL 36701

Are Federal Cases Public Records?

Records of federal cases are available to the general public for copying and inspecting, following the Freedom of Information Act. Interested individuals may obtain Federal case information from its custodian if they are eligible. However, following a court order, some records may be exempt from public access. Only qualified persons may view such confidential documents as prescribed by the court.

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 involved

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 Courts Records Online

Interested persons can find desired federal court records online through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) tool. In order to use the tool, requestors must create an account on the PACER site. Court records can be searched by the federal court's location in Alabama. Users of the PACER system can obtain Alabama federal case information such as docket sheets, court transcripts, case description, the details of all the parties involved, including the attorneys and judges, and the verdicts.

Users of the PACER system can find federal court records at least 24 hours after the case was heard/filed.

Requestors can option copies of the desired records at $0.03 per page. Charges for a document is $3. If eligible, users of the PACER system may apply for fee waivers.

How to Find Federal Court Records in Alabama?

Interested persons may obtain Alabama federal court records at the courthouse where the case proceedings occurred. Typically, the court clerk is the custodian of records, and eligible persons may request federal court records in-person or via U.S mail.

To obtain federal court records of the Northern District of Alabama, interested persons may visit the clerk's office in the Birmingham or Huntsville courthouses and request desired records. Requestors may also prepare a written request and submit it to the clerk's office via mail. The cost of searching a record is $31, and $0.50 is charged per copy requested. Certified copies of documents cost $11, following the court's fee schedule. Interested persons may send requests to:

Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse
1729 5th Avenue North
Birmingham, AL 35203
(205) 278-1700

United States District Court
101 Holmes Avenue
Huntsville, AL 35801
 (256) 534-6495

Interested persons may use the public access terminal in the lobby of the clerk's office to obtain federal court records in the Middle District of Alabama. Those who opt to use the public-access terminals may find federal court records with the case name. Requestors may obtain copies at $0.10 per page. Alternatively, interested persons may visit the court clerk's office and request federal court records in-person. The clerk also offers the option of obtaining records via mail. Photocopies of documents attract a fee of $0.50 per page. For record search (per name), the clerk's office charges a fee of $31, and the certification of a document costs $11. Requestors may visit or send written requests to:

Frank M. Johnson Jr U.S. Courthouse Complex
One Church Street,
Montgomery, AL 36104
(334) 954-3600

To obtain Federal court records of the Southern District of Alabama, interested persons may request desired records from the clerk's office in-person or via mail. The clerk attends to in-person requests during weekdays, from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Charges may apply for the search and copying of records, following the fee schedule. Interested persons may visit or send written requests to:

U.S. District Court
Southern District of Alabama
155 Saint Joseph St.
Mobile, AL 36602

Can Federal Crimes Be Dismissed in Alabama?

Federal crimes may be dismissed on rare occasions. The dismissal of federal crimes in an Alabama federal court connotes that all criminal charges will be dropped against the defendant. When there is an unlawful delay in a criminal trial, it violates the defendant's right to a speedy trial. In such cases, the defendant's legal representation may request dismissal of the charges.

How Do I Clear My Federal Criminal Record?

Interested persons may clear federal criminal records in Alabama by filing a motion to expunge/seal documents in a federal court. The motion is reviewed by a judge who determines whether the expungement request satisfies the state law's requirements. Automatically, criminal records that may involve minors are sealed and, therefore, unavailable to the public. Persons who may view sealed records include law enforcement officers, individuals with court orders, and selected employers. The court may also clear federal criminal records of wrongly convicted persons.