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What are Louisiana Criminal Court Records?
Louisiana Criminal Court Records consist of the official documentation of “public” information generated and filed during a routine criminal court proceeding. As furnished by the Louisiana Public Records Law, court records are publicly available information filed with the court custodian and does not include confidential records that are otherwise sealed by statute or court order. This law in relation to criminal court records also entails that summons, orders, writs, warrants, case files, docket sheets, citations, hearings, affidavits, court calendars, subpoenas, injunctions, judgments, and other written or electronically generated information and resources produced during criminal court proceedings are open for public inspection and reproduction unless otherwise expressed by law.
What’s contained in a Louisiana Criminal Court Record?
Criminal case types generally encompass felony and misdemeanor crimes that are punishable by jail time, fines, probation, community service, among others. These cases may include; murder cases, driving under the influence (DUI) cases, drug cases, domestic assault cases, property crime cases, aggravated assault cases, sexual offense cases, and the like. The content of each case record is unique depending on the type of case and the proceedings of the case itself. However, these records share similar general characteristics such as:
- Biodata of the defendant and/or the plaintiff
- Case Summary
- Record of Judgments and Orders
- Index of Parties
- Case Filings List
- Dockets/Calendars with case numbers, captions, date, time and hearing location
- Trial transcripts including motions and actions taken during the court’s proceedings
- Court summons and information on indictment
- Information regarding the defendant’s plea
- Available official receipts, transaction sheets and miscellaneous documents relating to the case
- The final judgment, penalties, probationary conditions, and fines
Understanding Louisiana’s Criminal Court System
The character of Louisiana’s court system is derived from a Spain-France hybrid historical background, as the state remains the only civil law jurisdiction in the United States. The judiciary of Louisiana is composed of a Supreme Court, 5 circuit courts of appeal, the district courts, and other courts of special and limited jurisdiction. The court of special jurisdiction includes the juvenile courts and family courts. The courts of limited jurisdiction comprise the justice of the peace courts, the mayor’s courts, the city courts, and the parish courts all functioning at different levels to create a fair and standard justice delivery thereby upholding the rights of citizens in the state.
The appellate-level courts
- The Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is the tribunal of last resort furnished with both mandatory and discretionary jurisdiction by the state law. There are seven judges who sit en banc to hear and determine appeals from lower courts and also offer advisory opinions over questions of state law.
- The First Circuit Court of Appeal: Located in Baton Rouge and composed of twelve judges, Louisiana’s First Circuit Court of Appeal constitutes one of the five intermediate appellate courts in the state, and exercises geographical jurisdiction over criminal and civil appeals across three districts/sixteen parishes namely: Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, Iberville, Lafourche, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, and Washington.
- The Second Circuit Court of Appeal: Consisting of nine judges, the second circuit court of appeals has geographical jurisdiction over criminal and civil appeals in twenty parishes including Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Claiborne, DeSoto, East Carroll, Franklin, Jackson, Lincoln, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Red River, Richland, Tensas, Union, Webster, West Carroll, and Winn.
- The Third Circuit Court of Appeal: Largest of the intermediate appellate courts, the court hears appeals from twenty-one parishes in the state including Acadia, Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Catahoula, Concordia, Evangeline, Grant, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Sabine, St. Landry, St. Martin, Vernon, and Vermilion.
- The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal: Has appellate jurisdiction over 3 parishes including New Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard.
- The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal: Has appellate and supervisory jurisdiction over all lower courts within the parishes of Jefferson, St. Charles, St. James, and St. John the Baptist.
- District Court: With the exception of New Orleans which has separate criminal and civil courts, the district courts constitute the courts of general jurisdiction over all criminal and civil matters in the state.
Who can access Criminal Court Records in the State of Louisiana?
The Louisiana Public Record Law affords citizens the right to inspect and copy non-confidential criminal case records. The court clerk is the record custodian whose administrative duty is to maintain, secure, and release these records to willing individuals. The storage site of any sought record depends on how old the record is. Active, and semi-closed case records are usually housed in the courthouse while older records may be stored in secondary sites.
How do I obtain Louisiana Criminal Court Records?
The various arms of Louisiana’s court system maintain records in their respective capacity, each having distinct operational guidelines set for viewing and obtaining its criminal court records. However, the methods utilized by most courts in the state include:
- Obtaining records in person
- Obtaining records online
- Obtaining records by mail
How Do I Access Louisiana Criminal Court Records in Person?
Step 1. Identify the Right Court
Criminal court records in the state of Louisiana are maintained by the various trial and appellate courts in their respective jurisdiction. Hence, to effectively render a record request, requesters must confirm and locate the court where the criminal case was originally heard. The district court located in each parish is usually the court of interest with the exception of cases that have been appealed to the higher courts. To determine the absolute location of the sought record, willing requesters may visit the Clerks’ directories to obtain the address and contact details of the particular clerk of interest.
Step 2. Gather the Relevant Case Information
For a request to be duly processed by the court clerk, some relevant information specific to the case must be provided to facilitate the search. The case number comprises the most specific information required to conduct a case search. However, in situations where the case number is not known, the requester may render a search using the name(s) of the parties in the case, the name(s) of the attending attorney(s) or the presiding judge, and the approximate date range when the case was filed (eg. 2005 —2010).
Step 3. Request for Records
Most courts provide self-help online terminals for viewing and inspecting court records. However, if copies are also needed, interested parties are required to submit a written application, including relevant details of the case (such as the case number, names of parties to the case, and approximate date range of the case).
Step 4. Make Required Payments for the Records
Although criminal court records are free, there is a convenience fee for making copies of the provided documents. Additional charges may apply if certified copies are requested. Interested parties are expected to complete payment before copies of the record are released. The total fee for each record request varies and depends on the number of copies required. Note that some clerks may provide local record request guidelines and may require additional charges for requests in which the case number is not known.
How to Obtain Louisiana Criminal Court Records by Mail
To obtain criminal court records by mail, residents must first confirm that the court of interest offers this service. Interested parties can confirm this by contacting the clerk of court or visiting the court’s official webpage. All information pertaining to the mailing procedures can be found by contacting the court clerk of interest. Some also clerks outline the “how-to” on their different websites. While the rules vary with different clerks, most courts require that requesters include a copy of a government-issued ID, a self-addressed stamped return envelope as well as a phone address that the clerk can contact for questions. Furthermore, payment validates requests and payment method may be by check, money order, credit card, or by any other means accepted by the specific clerk of interest. However, payment is usually not by cash and mail-in requests without the appropriate payment through an accepted means are rejected. Note that obtaining records by mail may take 3 days to 2 weeks depending on the court and if there was any difficulty in finding the record.
How to Find Louisiana Criminal Court Records Online?
The various courts in the Louisiana court system do not operate a unified online case search website that allows members of the public to remotely access records across courts using a single search tool. However, the courts maintain online dockets and case search tools in their respective capacities, hence requestors are required to search the appropriate online portal to locate the record of interest.
- Utilize the Opinion Search Tool to find published criminal case opinions for appeals heard in the Supreme Court between the year 1996 to 2004. Older or more recent court records may be obtained from the court custodian in person. Also, the court provides an argument docket in which current, recent, and past case hearings are uploaded.
- The Louisiana first circuit appellate court has an e-clerk counter where copies of criminal court records in CD and paper form may be ordered by interested parties. Users are required to register before access to this portal is granted. Also, subscribers are required to furnish the tool with the required criteria which may be the case number, case party names, and/or docket number. Payment is usually made in advance via VISA, Master Card, or American Express with the exception of checking out case records that can be collected physically from the clerk’s office or shipped UPS-COD. The court also has past and current Argument Docket sheets that are readily available for viewing by judges’ names.
- The Second Circuit Court of Appeals publishes an up-to-date Opinion/Disposition List where interested persons may access the court’s opinions and dispositions. Searches can be conducted by title or date of the sought case.
- Individuals whose case was heard in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals may also access the court’s opinions and dockets using the Opinion and Docket Search Tool.
- Interested persons may also utilize the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Opinions and Docket e-feature to view all docket sheets by case number/case year, case title, case filing year, or by date of publication. In addition, the website features Attorney searches by name and/or bar number to view all docket sheets of a specific attorney.
- The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals features opinion, case, and docket search on their website and willing individuals can conduct a search using the case information.
- Most trial courts operate and provide independent online resources and tools that provide access to court records. Requesters are required to contact the specific court clerk of interest to ascertain if the court offers e-services, as well as obtain comprehensive information as regards the record request procedures.
Publicly available records are also 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.
Are all Louisiana Criminal Court Records Available Online?
Not all criminal court records in the state of Louisiana are available online. In accordance with the public records law, most criminal court records are maintained on the state or parish websites and can be accessed by interested persons. However, remotely accessible channels provide general information on a case and may exclude part of the information that may reveal information that threatens the security of the persona named in the case. Such information may include: financial data, personal identification and security numbers of parties to the case, and information related to victims and witnesses. In-person requests are therefore recommended to individuals looking to obtain complete criminal court records with few or no exclusion.
How do I find Louisiana Public Records for Free?
The Louisiana judiciary maintains public online resources and search tools that can be accessed for free. All online dockets, oral arguments, opinions, and dispositions are available for viewing and inspection free of charge. To access the online case records free of charge, the requesting parties must ensure the provision of the required information such as case number, etc. Although remote access to most records is free, users may be charged a convenience fee for paper or media copies and additional fees for certification. Note that some trial courts require that requesters subscribe before access to court records are granted, in which case the records are not free.
Can I Access Sealed Criminal Court Records?
Members of the public who meet the sealing and/or expungement criteria may render their records confidential. Access to such records has limitations, hence prohibited from disclosure to any unauthorized individual. Sealed criminal court records may, however, be made available to persons who meet specific authorization requirements. To be eligible to access sealed criminal records, the requester must either be the attorney of the subject(s) of the record, a member of a law enforcement agency, or any other individual/entity allowed by statute or court order. However, to be issued a court order, the requesting party must state reasons that substantially and reasonably outweigh the need to need to keep the required information confidential.
Are Trial Transcripts Open to the Public?
Typically, trial transcripts are available for inspection and copying by the general public. However, transcripts of pre-sentenced cases, juvenile delinquency cases, and other cases that are deemed confidential by statute or court rule may be unavailable for public view.
How do I Obtain Louisiana Court Transcripts?
Members of the public may request copies of appellate and non-appellate case transcripts filed at the state’s courts. These copies are maintained and prepared by the court reporter for a fee. Appellants may obtain court transcript through the following steps:
- Contact the specific appellate Court Reporter to ascertain the financial outcome of the sought transcripts as well as mailing/emailing address of the reporter
- Complete and mail/email the Transcript Order Form
To obtain non-appeal court transcripts, interested persons are required to provide an oral or written request including relevant information to identify the material of interest. Also, the requesting parties must contact the court reporter to make payment and return arrangements.
How Do I Obtain Federal Criminal Court Records Online?
The United States District Courts of Louisiana are courts of federal jurisdictions divided into the eastern, middle, and western districts. The courts are responsible for presiding over federal criminal cases in their respective jurisdiction as well as maintaining records of the presided cases. The online access to these records is managed by the U.S government through a nationwide online portal named —PACER (public access to court electronic records). The PACER case locator functions as the national index for federal courts and may be used to search, view and copy case information for a fee. Also, registration and subscription may be required before requesters can access the index. Also, once the login information is obtained, users may search the online index for the record of interest using the case number, names of the parties to the case, and the date the case was filed.