E-filing laws govern the use of e-filing in criminal cases. E-filing is the automated transmission of legal forms and documents through the use of online technology. E-filing is sometimes called “electronic court filing” or “paperless filing”. 

An increasing number of criminal courts are making e-filing mandatory. These are mostly trial courts, although more and more appellate courts are also using e-filing systems.

Can I File and View Documents from Anywhere?

Yes. Criminal E-Filing allows attorneys and other to file and view documents anywhere that has internet access at any time of the day. Documents are automatically docketed once the document is filed as a part of the filing process and then are immediately available electronically. Some states require parties to upload all case files over the internet directly with the court.

How Is E-Filing Used in a Criminal Case?

E-filing is used throughout a criminal case whenever documents need to be transmitted. A judge or attorney usually sends the file first through e-mail to a central court directory. From there it may be labeled and distributed to the parties who are allowed to access the file.  Much e-filing occurs at the beginning of trial.

E-filing systems may be used to accomplish the following tasks:

  • Filing motions
  • Transmitting correspondences between attorneys and the judge
  • Electronic discovery (sending information and documents that one party requests from the other)
  • Filing any other court-related forms or documents

Will My Court Files Get Lost Due to E-filing?

Many people are expressing privacy concerns over e-filing requirements. For example, some defendants and lawyers are concerned about other parties hacking into court computer systems in order to access e-files. Some also fear that files might get lost during the electronic transfer process. However, the e-filing process is generally considered to be safe and electronically protected. 

What Are the Advantages of Criminal E-Filing?

E-filing is also associated with a number of advantages, such as:

  • saving costs on printing, copying, and handling
  • easier access and citation of files
  • electronic time-stamping is provided to verify the date and time of receipt
  • Full case information is available to attorneys, parties, and public through internet
  • Attorneys filing of e-files creates a docket entry which are updates regularly
  • Attorneys and clients have 24/7 access to the case document anywhere where there is internet access

Due to these benefits, it is expected that most jurisdictions will eventually adopt e-filing laws in the near future.  

Should I Contact a Lawyer Regarding E-Filing Laws?

E-filing laws are not yet in place in every state and jurisdiction. If you have any questions about e-filing in your state, you may wish to contact an experienced criminal attorney. If you are involved in criminal charges, you have the right to know how your case is being processed and handled. An attorney can inform you whether your state enforces e-filing laws.