Arrest & Arraignment

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Once the prosecutor files an indictment against you, you will appear before the magistrate judge to be arraigned on the formal charges. For some people, their initial appearance and their arraignment will happen on the same day if they are arrested after an indictment is filed. You will be asked to read and sign a statement of your constitutional rights. The magistrate judge will also read a statement of your constitutional rights. The magistrate judge will ask if you understand what the prosecutor claims that […].. Read More

Soon after your arrest, agents will bring you to court before a magistrate judge. The charges against you will be contained in a complaint with an affidavit that summarizes the evidence against you, or in an indictment returned by a grand jury. The magistrate judge will explain your rights and make sure that you understand what the prosecutor claims you did.  If you cannot afford an attorney, you will fill out a financial form (signed under penalty of perjury) to show that you cannot afford […].. Read More

If you know that you have an outstanding federal warrant, you should immediately surrender to the United States Marshal in any district. If you are located within the Central District, call the Federal Public Defender’s Office at (213) 894-2854. A Deputy Federal Public Defender can arrange your surrender to the United States Marshal.  Choosing not to surrender can result in adverse consequences to your case and even additional criminal charges... Read More

If you are in custody, it is the Marshal’s duty to transfer you to the charging jurisdiction. If you are out on bond, you must travel to the originating jurisdiction yourself.  There is a statute — 18 U.S.C. section 4285 — which the magistrate judge can use to order the marshal to pay for your transportation; however, the marshals typically only pay for one-way travel. You should discuss this with your attorney... Read More

The CASA Program is an alternative to traditional prosecution and sentencing that seeks to address some of the primary causes of criminal offenses – substance use disorders, mental health issues, and deficient life-skills. Thus, to qualify for application to CASA, a client must demonstrate that he or she has had an alcohol or drug problem, suffers from a mental health issue (including depression and anxiety disorders), or has deficient life-skills issues (particularly for the younger applicants). Of particular importance is the applicant’s ability to show […].. Read More

Any defense counsel may apply on behalf of their client by submitting a letter to the CASA team closest to where the applicant may reside, regardless of where the case has been filed.  It is suggested that letters cover the following items: Client’s personal history Role in the offense Prior criminal history Motivations for his or her involvement in the current offense Substance abuse, mental health and/or life-skills issues that may be addressed in CASA (including restorative justice and second chance arguments) Any and all […].. Read More

CASA team members – representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO), the Federal Public Defenders Office (FDO) and the U.S. Pretrial Services Agency (PSA) – for each court meet regularly to review and discuss applications.  While all team members have a right to accept or reject a prospective applicant, the U.S. Attorney’s Office makes the final decision regarding admission and track designation.   If rejected by the CASA USAO representatives, the only recourse is a request for reconsideration with the USAO Criminal Chief. In some cases […].. Read More

Track 1 will lead to a complete dismissal of all charges with prejudice (cannot be brought again).  Because that client will not be sentenced, he or she will not suffer a federal felony conviction for this case.  All Track 1 participants should nonetheless know that the arrest, filing of charges, conditions of release bond, CASA guilty plea agreement and guilty plea, all program court appearances and the order of dismissal of all charges will be a matter of public record.  In cases where restitution is […].. Read More

All participants remain on their pretrial release bond during the CASA Program.  A standard condition of all bonds is to obey all laws, not use or possess controlled substances or alcohol, and report as directed to the CASA PSA officer. For many, this will also include drug testing, drug and/or mental health counseling and treatment.  Drug treatment can range from residential, to intensive outpatient and periodic individual and/or group counseling sessions, and twelve step fellowship meetings.  Other mental health counseling services may also be scheduled […].. Read More

Central Violations Bureau (CVB)

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Central Violations Bureau (CVB) refers to those petty offenses (as defined under 18 USC 19) that occur on federal property, such as federal buildings, national parks, military bases, post offices, Veteran Affairs centers, Social Security Administration Offices, local national forests (i.e., Angeles Crest, Los Padres National Forest), and any other areas that are patrolled or under the jurisdiction of the federal government. In the Central District of California, CVB matters include violations occurring on Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), the Naval bases out of Ventura […].. Read More

No. CVB offenses do not include any felony offenses. Felony offenses are prosecuted separately by the United States Attorney’s Office... Read More

CVB offenses are governed by 18 U.S.C. section 19. This statute specifically states that petty offenses include Class B misdemeanors, Class C misdemeanors, and infractions. We will also see Class A misdemeanors on the CVB docket. Here is a breakdown of the particulars for each type of citation: Class A Misdemeanors: The maximum sentence is one year of imprisonment; a fine of up to $100,000; a $25 special assessment; a $25 CVB processing fee; and up to one year of supervised release or 5 years […].. Read More

The court will appoint an attorney to represent you only if the government is seeking either a jail sentence or a sentence that includes a term of probation. This will depend on the type of charge. For example, if you are arrested for a DUI, you likely be afforded court-appointed counsel. The reason for this is that DUI convictions will include no less than a sentence of probation. The Federal Public Defender’s Office is often appointed on petty theft, drug possession, and disturbing the peace […].. Read More

If you intend to contest your charges, you must appear in California. If you are interested in resolving your case through a guilty plea, there is a provision under Rule 58(c)(2) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to allow transfer of your case for plea and sentencing... Read More

Courtroom Attire & Etiquette

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Federal court is more formal than most state courts.  Suits, ties, and other formal wear are not necessary, but shorts, halters, tank tops, any clothing exposing the midriff or underclothing, beachwear, flip-flops, pool shoes, or t-shirts with inappropriate graphics or wording are not recommended... Read More

Yes. Family support of a criminal defendant is critical, and we strongly encourage family members to attend hearings of their loved ones.  However, family and friends may not speak directly to the judge unless they are asked to do so.  Audience members who are being disruptive will be removed from the courtroom... Read More

Visitors to the courtroom cannot speak or communicate in any way with a defendant in custody... Read More

Yes, but every effort should be made to keep young children quiet while court is in session. Some courtroom topics may be inappropriate for young children... Read More

Yes. Please remember to turn off your smartphone, tablet, smartwatches, and pagers before entering the courtroom. The use of cameras, camera phones, and recording devices inside the courtroom is prohibited. These rules are strictly enforced by the Court and the U.S. Marshals... Read More

Habeas Proceedings

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A person who is in custody under a state court judgment may challenge his or her conviction in federal court on the ground that there was a violation of his or her federal constitutional rights. It is called a 2254 petition because the statute governing federal habeas petitions challenging state court judgments is 28 U.S.C. section 2254... Read More

If you file a 2254 petition in the Central District of California, it is assigned to both a magistrate judge and a district court judge. The magistrate judge is responsible for the preliminary litigation. Because the magistrate judge does not have the legal authority to issue a final order, the magistrate judge will issue a report and recommendation to the district court judge. The district court judge can either adopt the magistrate judge’s recommendation or issue his or her own order... Read More

File your petition on the form provided by the district court (click here for the form). Copies of the form and instructions for filing can be obtained from the district court’s website... Read More

A 2254 petition must be filed in the federal district court that has jurisdiction over the county where the conviction occurred. The United States District Court for the Central District of California has jurisdiction over Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties... Read More

Only issues related to federal constitutional violations (with the exception of Fourth Amendment claims) may be raised in a 2254 petition. The federal court will not consider issues based solely on state law. Also, the federal court cannot consider any claims that were not first presented to the highest state court. You must exhaust all of your state court remedies first... Read More

Material Witnesses

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A material witness is a person whose testimony is material to a criminal proceeding, and where it appears from an affidavit filed by a party that this person’s presence for testimony cannot be secured by a subpoena. A judge can order the person arrested, but also order that s/he be released from custody if certain conditions are met. 18 USC section 3144... Read More

Yes. The Federal Public Defender’s Office typically is appointed to represent indigent material witnesses... Read More

The material witness will be brought to court for a bail hearing. The material witness typically will be released after posting an unsecured bond filed by a third party. Typically, the bond is set at $5,000.  There are unusual situations, however, when material witnesses are not released on bond, or are released under more strict conditions... Read More

Typically, they are held in the Santa Ana Jail, located at 62 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana CA 92701. You can contact the Santa Ana Jail at (714) 245-8100... Read More

Yes.  STAR is a specialty court that seeks to help individuals who are on federal supervised release or probation and who are struggling with alcohol, drug or mental health issues.  Like other “problem-solving” or therapeutic courts, drug courts have been in state criminal court systems for over 25 years and they have had very good results – helping people to overcome their addictions, become productive, working members of our community, and not return to prison.  For more information on the history and track record of […].. Read More

Anyone, including the court, the prosecutor, defense counsel or probation officer can make a referral to STAR.  However, STAR is currently limited to portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and meets in the Los Angeles and Riverside federal courthouse. To apply, defense counsel should prepare and submit a STAR Program Referral Form. For the Los Angeles program, email the completed form to STAR U.S. Probation Officer Kristie Rzonca (; for the Riverside program, send to STAR U.S. Probation Officer Sherry Harrision (  […].. Read More

Since its inception in 2005, STAR has worked with more than 100 participants and has successfully graduated 45 individuals... Read More

STAR has a 3-phase structure. Participants “phase up” based on their performance in the program, including participating in substance abuse and/or mental health treatment; attending court sessions and self-help meetings... Read More

All STAR participant treatments plans are individualized based on the participant’s specific needs... Read More