How to Get Copies of a Federal Criminal Complaint

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While state and federal courts can move slowly sometimes, some elements of the justice system are embracing the technology of the age. If you are looking to obtain copies of a criminal complaint filed in federal court, you have two options to accomplish the task. You can go to your local federal courthouse and obtain copies from the court clerk, or you can use the docket number to trace online records of the complaint through PACER, the records database for the U.S. court system.

In Person

Step 1

Go to the clerk's office for the jurisdiction where the complaint was filed.

Step 2

Give the court clerk the docket number or case number for the federal criminal complaint you want copies of.

Step 3

Pay the copy fees to the clerk, typically 50 cents per page, as of the time of publication.


Step 1

Open the PACER database ( in a Web browser. Click the "Find A Case" tab in the top navigation bar.

Step 2

Select the "Search for Individual Court PACER Websites" link. Click the link for the court where the criminal complaint was filed. Create an account with the local PACER site.

Step 3

Log in to your PACER account. Enter the complaint docket number in the entry field and click "Submit."

Step 4

Select the criminal complaint from the list of document links that appears. The charge at the time of publication was about 8 cents per page. That fee was capped at $2.40 for any one document. As long as you don't incur more than $10 in fees during a three-month billing cycle, you don't have to pay.


About the Author

Bobby R. Goldsmith is a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience in journalism, marketing and academics. His work has been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, "DASH Literary Journal," the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin" and WiseGEEK.