North Dakota Criminal Court Records
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What are Criminal Court Records?
North Dakota criminal court records consist of information, documents and evidence gathered or used during criminal court proceedings. In compliance with the North Dakota Open Records Statute 1983 (amended in 1988) and state laws, North Dakota criminal court records are generally public records. Members of the public can access and make copies of criminal court records, except where a record is protected by the law or court order.
Note: The Clerk of the Court is responsible for the management and maintenance of criminal court records. This role is dependent on the type of court and the district/county the court has jurisdiction over.
Understanding the North Dakota Criminal Court System
North Dakota has a unified and integrated court system. Established in 1861, it includes multiple court levels:
- Supreme Court
- Court of Appeals
- District Court
- Municipal Court
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state. It has appellate jurisdiction over cases from the lower courts and has the responsibility of regulating the practice of law by ensuring that state-wide procedure and practice is promulgated before all courts of North Dakota. They hear interlocutory appeals by right for criminal, civil, writ and administrative agencies. In certain circumstances, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to issue, hear, and determine such original and remedial writs as may be necessary to properly exercise its jurisdiction.
The Court of Appeals is the state's intermediate appellate courts. Their original jurisdiction includes original proceedings application for writ applications. They were created by the legislature to assist the Supreme Court with its workload.
The District Courts of the State of North Dakota have largely broad jurisdiction over various areas of law and can grant original and remedial writs. They possess original and general jurisdiction over all kinds of cases unless otherwise provided by law. District courts also possess exclusive jurisdiction over criminal cases and general jurisdiction over civil cases, small claims cases of not more than $15,000 and domestic relations. In addition to this, district courts act as juvenile courts and possess original and exclusive jurisdiction juvenile cases. Furthermore, they act as appellate courts for decisions from administrative agencies. In doing this, they do not have to re-try the case, instead, their ruling is founded on a review of the record of the administrative proceeding carried out by the administrative agency. The municipal courts of North Dakota generally have jurisdiction over cases relating to violations of city ordinances, such as drunk driving, traffic violations or other violations.
What’s Included in a North Dakota Criminal Court Record?
Criminal court records include documents of court proceedings of a particular case, either during its trial or appeal stage. These include information collected, received, or maintained by court personnel in connection with a judicial proceeding; or any index, calendar, docket, register of actions, the official record of the proceedings, order, decree, judgment, minute, and any information in a case management system created or prepared by court personnel relating to a judicial proceeding; and information maintained by court personnel pertaining to the administration of the court or clerk of court office and not associated with a particular case.
Obtaining Criminal Court Records in North Dakota
North Dakota Criminal Court Records may be obtained through any of the following means:
- Obtaining records in person
- Obtaining records online
- Obtaining records by mail
How do I Access North Dakota Criminal Court Records in Person?
To obtain access to criminal court records in person, the following steps must be taken:
Locate or confirm the court that decided the case and its judicial district. This is important because the criminal court record is generated and maintained by the court clerk. For information on identifying the court, visit North Dakota court locations. The requestor must submit a written request for the criminal court record requested to the court’s clerk. In addition, the written request must contain sufficient information to enable the clerk to find the case without extensive research. Information can be:
- Case number
- Date filed
- Case cross-reference number
- Citation number
- Defendant party’s details
- Name of Attorney
- Bar number of Attorney
Payment for the record is made after this. The fee to be paid is $10 per search requested. There is an additional charge of $1 if per copy made.
Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
How Do I Request North Dakota Criminal Court Records by Mail?
To request criminal court records by mail, it is important to find out that the court offers this service. Interested parties can confirm this by contacting the clerk of court or visiting the court’s official webpage. In certain circumstances, a physical address for mailing records is required. Payment for records may be made by credit card or check. For general inquiries, an email can be sent to email@example.com.
How to Find North Dakota Criminal Court Records Online?
This is the most convenient way of accessing criminal court records. The website to find criminal court records is the Supreme Court’s website. All an interested party needs are the following information:
- Court location of the case
- Case Number
- Case Cross Reference Number
- Citation Number
- Defendant’s details
- Date filed
Are all North Dakota Criminal Court Records Public?
Pursuant to the provisions of the North Dakota Open Records Statute 1983 (amended in 1988), court records can be accessed by the public at will. These records are in the possession of the state and local government and they can be accessed and copied by all members of the public. The reason for this is to promote transparency and State accountability. Therefore, all criminal court records are open to be viewed, except where they are automatically sealed by law. To access criminal court records, the Office of the Clerk should be contacted:
Address: North Dakota Supreme Court
600 E Boulevard Ave Bismarck, ND 58505-0530
Phone: (701) 328-2221
Can I Access Sealed North Dakota Criminal Court Records?
By virtue of Section 5(1)(F) of Administrative Rule 41 of the North Dakota Supreme Court Administrative Rules, a request to access sealed case records can be made to the court by any member of the public or by the court on its own motion. The court, in deciding whether to allow access, has to take into consideration whether there are sufficient grounds to override the reason why such a record was sealed initially. In deciding this the court must consider the standards outlined in Section 5(f)(1)(C) and Section 2.
Are Juvenile Criminal Records Open to the Public?
Juvenile criminal records are official records that provide information of arrests on a minor and records of cases filed in North Dakota’s juvenile courts. Pursuant to North Dakota state laws, juvenile records are confidential and cannot be accessed by the public, unless by law or court order. Juvenile records still remain open to inspection by
- Judge of the Juvenile court
- Agents or employees of the Department of Human Services
- Parties connected to the proceeding
- Institutions providing supervision/custody of the minor
What Records are Automatically Sealed by North Dakota Statute?
Generally, criminal court records are public records, therefore, they can be accessed by the public. The exception to this is where a statute declares certain records as confidential or exempt. Where the record is exempt, the public entity protecting or maintaining it possesses the discretion to either release or withhold it. Where it is confidential, on the other hand, the record cannot be released, unless the confidential information contained in the record is redacted.
Examples of confidential court records or record information:
- Juvenile court proceedings
- Social security numbers; credit, debit, or electronic fund transfer card numbers; and financial account numbers
- Domestic violence protection order files - except for the final order of the court
- Mental health commitment proceedings
- Psychological evaluations and drug and alcohol treatment records
- Adoption and paternity proceedings
Section 5 of Administrative Rule 41 and the Appendix to it provides a more detailed list of confidential records.
Are Trial Transcripts Open to the Public?
Yes, purchase of trial transcripts (written records) or audio recordings of cases can be made where they are made available pursuant to Administrative Rule 41. In requesting the transcript, a detailed process is outlined under Policy 206 - Fees and Expenses for Preparation of Transcripts and Policy 503 - Procedures for Accessing Tapes or CDs.