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How the Federal Criminal System in Los Angeles is Unique


I’ve been practicing federal criminal defense in the Los Angeles area for the past 26 years now, so I have a pretty good idea about how cases are handled — kind of what the procedure is there, and just like any federal court.

I’ve been to many of them across the country — Los Angeles federal criminal defense has its own way of doing things.  The judges are unto themselves and unique, just like any pool of judges is in any jurisdiction. Our California criminal defense lawyers explain below.

Federal Indictment on Roybal Courthouse

Basically, when someone is arrested, they are typically brought to the Roybal Building in downtown Los Angeles at 255 East Temple, where the person is presented with their indictment — the charges against them.

If they have an attorney, the attorney will fill out certain paperwork on their behalf so that they are prepared to do the initial appearance.  Eventually, the government can proceed by way of a preliminary hearing or they can indict the person.

Once a person is indictment, they will appear at what’s called the post-indictment arraignment and basically they will enter a not guilty plea.  Once they enter the not guilty plea, bail will be dealt with.

Posting Bond in a Federal Case

The federal system in Los Angeles, as in most jurisdiction, the person can sign what’s called a signature bond in order to get out.  They can also do what’s called a property bond, where someone, including the person, pledges their property in order to be released from custody.Federal Criminal System in Los Angeles

This basically means if they don’t show up the property can be sold and the government can then take the money.

So, obviously, a property bond is something that the government will often ask for if they’re going to agree to the person getting out because they feel it’s a more secure way of ensuring the person’s appearance on the federal criminal case.

The judge in the Roybal Building in downtown Los Angeles can also detain the person.  If a person is detained, that means they can’t get out while the case is pending.  Once the case is pending they will be released after they serve any sentence that a judge might hand down on them.

After the post-indictment arraignment and the bail is set, the case will then be sent in to one of the judges.  It’s supposed to be done randomly.  It likely is.  I’m sure they have their own system on how they dole out their cases, but there are judges that sit in the Roybal Building.

There’s also judges that sit in the new modern federal courthouse that was recently built on First Street in downtown Los Angeles.

Once you make your initial appearance in front of the judge who has your case, that judge will have typical rules.  Sometimes you’ll be given the rules at the time of the post-indictment arraignment, and then obviously, you want to follow those rules.

Your attorney will be in charge o that on our behalf and then the attorney will also deal with the assigned prosecuted, called an Assistant United States Attorney on your case.

Conservative Federal Courts in Los Angeles

So, I think Los Angeles is unique in the sense that it’s very conservative.  I’ve seen other jurisdictions be more lenient on some of the cases that the Los Angeles Central District is more harsh.  Also, a neighbor federal court to Los Angeles is Santa Ana.

The Santa Ana federal court is a beautiful courthouse, but that’s also part of Los Angeles County in the sense that I see some cases where the defendant is both committing crimes in Los Angeles and Orange County, the case ends up getting filed in the Santa Ana court.

It’s a smaller courthouse with less judges, and to a degree, handle the overflow from the Central District.  A lot of the prosecutors that are in Los Angeles have to travel to Santa Ana to prosecute their cases.

While other cases that are filed in that jurisdiction are just assigned to a prosecutor that’s actually there, but they have limited space there — limited judges and limited prosecutors.  Again, it’s a smaller courthouse, but definitely a sister courthouse to the Los Angeles federal criminal courthouse on First Street and the Roybal Courthouse.

At this point, as far as Los Angeles goes in uniqueness, you really have to look at what your charges are.  That’s one thing that I would discuss when I meet with somebody in assessing their criminal case, and in addition to what the charges are, we have to look at what judge you got assigned to.

Some judges are more conservative in Los Angeles, while others are less conservative.  So, in my opinion, that will really impact what your potential sentence is and how the case is dealt with.

Review Case with a Federal Criminal Attorney

So, if you have a federal criminal case in downtown Los Angeles, you know who your judge is, or maybe there’s a loved one who’s just been arrested and about to start the process, pick up the phone, get in and let’s sit down and talk about everything so we can get your federal criminal case in Los Angeles moving in the right direction.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We are also located at 633 West Fifth Street Los Angeles, CA 90071. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 374-3952.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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