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Conservative Approach Hallmark of Criminal Case File Reappraisal

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The Administrative Office has received approval from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of a revised records disposition schedule for non-electronic criminal case files.

Revising the Judiciary’s outdated record disposal schedules reduces the transfer period to the Federal Records Center of permanent cases, and allows for the disposal of accumulating paper files. Long-term storage of paper files is costly. Record schedules for civil, bankruptcy and appellate files already have been reappraised. Since the project began in 2010, it has saved the Judiciary well over a million dollars in reduced storage fees. Without the reappraisal program, storage costs would have reached $7.2 million by 2012.

The new criminal records disposition schedule specifically addresses sentencing-related concerns. It is sensitive to the operational concerns of the court, while ensuring the rights of citizens and the administration of justice. No offender’s case file can be transferred to NARA or destroyed while the offender is incarcerated. Under the newly approved schedule, criminal cases in which offenders received sentences of 15 years or less will be retained for 15 years; cases with sentences between 15 and 30 years will be retained for 30 years; and cases with life sentences or sentences longer than 30 years will be retained for 75 years.

In addition, non-trial cases related to embezzlement, immigration fraud or selective services, bribery by a public official, national security and death penalty cases are permanent. 

And as with civil, bankruptcy and appellate case file records, all dockets and opinions; cases dated 1969 or earlier, trial cases dated 1970 or later, and cases that a court or NARA designate as historic also are permanent and preserved.

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