Case Process


The Federal Public Defender of Oregon is an organization of criminal defense attorneys. We represent people charged with federal crimes in Oregon who cannot afford to pay an attorney. We are free. We can represent you only if the court appoints us, based on your financial situation. Once appointed, we work FOR YOU only, and not for the court. Our only job is to give you the best defense possible. Our defense team includes investigators, paralegals, research specialists, interns, and legal assistants who may work with your attorney on your case.

We can only represent one defendant in a case. If there are other defendants in your case. We will ask the court to appoint free private attorneys, known as "panel attorneys," for defendants who qualify for appointed counsel we can't represent. We will also get you a panel attorney if we have a conflict with your case (for example, if we previously represented a witness or co-defendant).

The attorney you meet the first day you come to court is responsible for all new arrests that day. He or she will speak with you about what will happen that day, and see if there is a way to get you out of jail. (See the Handout called Detention Hearing for more information.) Later, a supervisor in our office will assign the attorney who is best for your case. That attorney will then handle your case all the way through, including, in most cases, any appeals or problems with supervised release after sentencing.


We have offices in Portland, Eugene and Medford. Our phone numbers are linked at the top of this page. We accept collect calls. Spanish-speaking receptionists are usually available. We are open from 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. You can leave a voice-mail message at other times. We cannot always call you while you are in jail, but your attorney will come visit you when possible. Because each attorney has a full case load, we cannot visit every day. If you are out of custody, you will meet with us in our office. Please keep all your appointments. If you need to reschedule, call your attorney or the legal assistant in advance.


As a federal prisoner, you are in the custody of the United States Marshals, who are responsible for you. They will probably keep you at one of several jails in the Portland area. Your attorney or investigator will have additional information on your jail.


Your case will be heard in the United States District Court. The courthouse is located at 1000 SW Third Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97204. If you are out of custody, NEVER miss a court appearance or arrive late for court. If you have a problem with a date, talk to your attorney ahead of time. You can give up your right to come to many court hearings, but you must file a written waiver with the court to do so.


Everything you say to your attorney is completely confidential. Do not discuss your case with any law enforcement officers. If they try to talk to you, tell them that you want your attorney there.

DO NOT DISCUSS YOUR CASE WITH OTHER INMATES, INCLUDING YOUR CELLMATES, in any language. The jails are full of people who might use your information against you. Do not discuss the case with friends or family, in any language. Jail phone calls and social visits may be recorded. Other people can be required to testify about what you say to them. Your own attorney, and people working for him or her, are the only ones you should talk to about your case.

DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT YOU HEAR FROM OTHER INMATES ABOUT WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN TO YOU. Most federal prisoners do not know about defending federal cases. Among federal prisoners, there are many false rumors about sentencing deals and other matters. Your attorney will have accurate information.



You are charged with a federal crime. That means either (1) a crime that violates a law passed by Congress for the whole country, or (2) a crime that happened on property owned by the United States government, like a VA hospital. Federal court is very different from state court. Here are some of the main differences:


As a federal prisoner, you will NOT have bail automatically set. There may be a detention hearing, at which the judge will decide whether you are entitled to bail. If you are detained, you will get credit for time served if you are later convicted, unless you are serving another sentence when you are detained on your federal charge.


Federal cases take a lot longer than state cases, especially if a case is complicated or has many defendants. Expect your case to take a long time. Taking more time often helps your case. People in jail may talk about the Speedy Trial Act. Some of what you hear will be wrong. You cannot "waive time" in your federal case, but your attorney can ask for extra time for preparation, investigation, motions, etc. Discuss this with your lawyer.


In federal court, judges are not involved in plea negotiations. A plea bargain is a deal just between you and the prosecutor: you agree to plead guilty, and the prosecutor agrees to drop charges or recommend something you want at sentencing. If there is a deal, the judge will not approve it ahead of time, and may not even know about it in advance. In most cases, the judge does not have to follow the deal. If the judge does not follow the deal, you are usually NOT allowed to withdraw your plea. Ask you lawyer to explain this to you.


Federal sentences are very different from state sentences, even for the same conduct. Congress decides maximum and sometimes minimum sentences for federal crimes. These are completely different from state court penalties. Although federal judges can give the sentence they think is fair, they have to consider a book of complicated rules called the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Your attorney will explain how the Guidelines apply to your case. How you serve a sentence is also different in federal custody. There is no parole. If you are sentenced to federal prison, you will serve at least 85% of your sentence. There is no good time credit for sentences of one year or less.


These are the stages that a federal criminal case may go through. Your lawyer can give you an information about each of the following topics:

1. Initial appearance and arraignment

2. Detention hearing

3. Discovery and investigation

4. Motions

5. Plea negotiations and change of plea

6. Trial

7. Sentencing

8. Violations of probation or supervised release

9. Appeals and other post-conviction relief


Soon after your arrest, you will be brought before a U.S. magistrate judge. The magistrate judge will make sure you are the person named in the complaint or arrest warrant. The judge will tell you of the charges against you, and explain your rights. The judge will appoint our office or decide that a panel attorney should represent you, if you qualify financially.


You have the right to have an attorney represent you. If you can't afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint a lawyer from the Federal Defender's Office or the CJA Panel to represent you. To qualify for appointed counsel, you may need to complete a financial affidavit. BE HONEST AND COMPLETE WHEN YOU FILL OUT THE FINANCIAL AFFIDAVIT. You will be signing "under penalty of perjury," which means it is a crime to lie. An attorney from Federal Defender will be available to help you with the paperwork.


At arraignment you will be formally notified of the charges against you. Generally, these charges are filed in a criminal complaint. In some cases, the prosecutor will get an indictment from the grand jury. An indictment is a formal document that charges you with one or more federal crimes. The charges against you, in whatever form, will be read to you at the arraignment, and you will be asked to enter a plea.

In almost all cases, an attorney from our office will plead "not guilty" for you and request a jury trial. You will have the chance to change your plea later, if you and your attorney decide that is best for you. A guilty plea gives up many important rights, and you should not do that until your attorney has been able to review all the evidence. A "not guilty" plea gives your legal team the chance to investigate and see if the case against you is any good. It preserves all your rights.


Before your first court appearance, a Pretrial Services Officer may want to speak to you. This person works for the court. He or she gathers information about your background and personal circumstances, writes a report for the judge, and makes a recommendation about whether or not you should be released and on what conditions. Remember that the Pretrial Services Officer works for the court, not for your lawyer.


If a Pretrial Services Officer asks to talk to you before you have seen your lawyer, tell the Officer that you want to speak to your lawyer before you decide what to do. If you agree to an interview, be honest. You can refuse to answer any question, but any answer you do give must be the truth. Lying to a Pretrial Services Officer can be used against you at sentencing if you are later convicted, and is also a crime. Your lawyer will help you decide whether to be interviewed and what to discuss.


After a hearing, the magistrate judge will decide whether to keep you in jail until your trial, or let you post bail, or release you on other conditions. Sometimes this decision is made at the initial appearance, but sometimes the lawyer asks that a separate detention hearing be held a few days later. This gives the lawyer and defense investigator time to develop a strong case for release.


Your initial appearance, detention hearing, and arraignment will be before a United States Magistrate Judge. At the arraignment, the magistrate judge may give you court dates for your trial in front of a United States District Judge. The district judge will handle most stages of your case after the arraignment. The district judge can also overrule the magistrate judge's decision about detention or release.
District judges are judges for life, appointed by the President of the United States. Magistrate judges are chosen by the local district judges, and serve for eight years at a time.


In deciding whether to release you, the judge will consider factors such as your prior record, ties to the community, any prior failures to appear for court, and employment. In general, the law says that the judge can only keep you in jail if there is evidence that you are a danger to the community, or a flight risk. However, certain drug related charges and crimes of violence carry what is called a “presumption of detention.” If you are charged with one of these crimes, the judge will keep you in jail until your trial date unless you and your attorney can convince the judge that you should be released.


Your lawyer will need a lot of information about your family, job, financial situation, and background. An investigator may also help prepare for the hearing. They may need to speak with people who know you well, and identify property that could be used to secure a bond. Sometimes witnesses are needed at the hearing, but this is not always the case. Your lawyer will explain the best way to handle your hearing, depending on your circumstances.


Bail is not automatically set for federal defendants. If the judge decides to let you post bond, you may be required to post cash or property, surrender your passport, and comply with restrictions on travel or residence.

If you are released, the judge will set conditions that you must follow until your case is over, such as drug testing or living at a certain place. You must attend all your court appearances or get permission from the court in advance for your lawyer to appear without you. Also, you cannot commit any local, state or federal crimes while on pretrial release. A Pretrial Services Officer will probably supervise you while you are out on bail. If you violate the conditions of your release, you can go back to jail. Some violations can also result in a longer sentence if you are convicted later.


If the judge decides not to release you before your trial, you will be in the custody of the United States Marshal. Your attorney has no control over the selection of the jail in which you are held.
If something about your circumstances changes, your attorney can go back to court and ask the judge to reconsider releasing you.


There are two main ways that you and your attorney get the information you need to defend your case: discovery and investigation.


"Discovery" is the process of getting information from the other side in a court case. You will also hear the word "discovery" used to describe evidence against you that the prosecutor must give to your attorney. The discovery process lets your attorney get the information from the government that is needed to defend you.


The government has to give your attorney copies of any documents that they plan to use against you at trial, or that are important to the preparation of your defense; any test results; and any statements you made to law enforcement. Your attorney will also be allowed to look at any physical evidence that the government plans to use against you. Basically, the prosecutor has to let you and your attorney see almost all of the evidence that would be used against you at a trial.


The first thing your attorney may do after your detention hearing is ask the prosecutor, in writing, for discovery. Then your attorney, and maybe an investigator, will review that discovery with you. The discovery will give us an idea about the strength of the case against you. Decisions about what motions to bring, what investigation to do, and whether or not to try for a plea bargain, often depend on what's in the discovery.


Independently of the discovery process, your lawyer and other members of your legal team will explore whether you have any possible defenses. They will also explore other issues that could affect your case. In some cases, but not all, this requires investigation.

Your lawyer will determine whether your case needs investigation. Investigation varies widely from case to case, and can include locating and interviewing witnesses, examining scenes, having physical evidence tested, getting expert opinions, etc.

If investigation is needed, an investigator from our office may do much of the work, such as interviewing witnesses. A paralegal may organize information and prepare exhibits to help your case. You, your lawyer, investigator, and paralegal are a team. Any of these people may visit you to discuss your case. What you say to them is completely confidential. Please cooperate with all of them, so that we can do the best job possible in defending you! Not every case needs an investigator. Your attorney will explain to you what investigation is appropriate for your case.


Anything you tell your attorney, investigator, or other federal defender employee is privileged, and will never be disclosed to the prosecutor or anyone else, except with your permission. If your case goes to trial, however, your attorney will have to show the prosecutor any evidence that will be used in your case, and any test results that will be used at the trial. During the investigation of your case, your legal team will take care to protect all information you give them. Your attorney will explain as you go along which information has to be shared with the prosecutor.



A motion is a formal request that a defendant or prosecutor makes to the judge in a case. Most motions are written, and include arguments why the judge should grant the request. Most motions come before the trial, and may determine what the trial will be like. For example, a defendant might move to have a trial separate from other defendants. After one party makes a motion, the other side always has the chance to respond to the motion in writing. Sometimes the judge needs to hold a hearing to decide a motion, but sometimes the judge will decide without a hearing, based on the papers that the lawyers have filed.



There are many types of motions a defendant or prosecutor can file before trial. A defendant's motion to suppress evidence asks the court to throw out evidence that the police got illegally. In order to decide a motion to suppress, the judge sometimes holds a hearing with witnesses, to decide whether the evidence was obtained legally.

If the judge decides that the evidence was gathered illegally, then the government may not be able to use it against the defendant at trial. Suppressed evidence can, however, be used against a person at sentencing if there is a conviction.

Another common defense motion is a discovery motion. This motion asks the court to order the prosecutor to give your attorney more information about the case against you. There are many other kinds of pre-trial motions. Ask your attorney which ones might apply to your case.

In limine motions are brought right before a trial. These are usually motions about what evidence should be allowed in and what evidence should be kept out. If your case goes to trial, your lawyer will discuss these motions with you.

Post-trial motions include motions for a new trial, if something went wrong during the trial. Sentencing motions include motions for "downward departures" or variances, to get a lighter sentence under the Sentencing Guidelines or the sentencing statute.

There are many types of motions not described here. It is your attorney's job to decide what motions to bring. Ask your lawyer what motions are appropriate for your case. Your attorney and possibly an investigator may need your help to develop the facts for a motion. Answer all their questions as honestly and completely as possible.



Before your case goes to trial, your attorney may try to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor. Your attorney will not make any deals for you without your permission. But your attorney will find out what kind of an offer the prosecutor is willing to make in your case. Then you can decide what to do, with your attorney's advice.

Sometimes defendants cooperate with the government as part of a deal. This means the person gives information to the government about his or her own crimes or the crimes of others. Not everyone who gets a deal cooperated with the government. Ask your lawyer if you have questions.


Sentences in federal court are determined by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. Your attorney will show you how the Guidelines will apply to you if you plead guilty, and if you go to trial. In most cases, pleading guilty will automatically result in a lighter sentence than if you were to lose at trial. That is because when you plead guilty, you get a sentencing "credit" for accepting responsibility.


A plea agreement is a deal between you and the government, negotiated by your lawyer and the prosecutor. The judge is not part of the deal. In federal court, the judge is not allowed to be part of plea negotiations at all. Your part of the deal is to plead guilty and to admit all the facts in the plea agreement. In some deals, the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge, or to only some of the charges. Sometimes the defendant pleads guilty to all the charges. The prosecutor's part of the deal is to recommend a sentence, one that is a lighter sentence than if you had lost at trial.

Because a plea agreement is a deal between you and the prosecutor, it does NOT guarantee that the judge will give you the sentence you hope for. As long as the prosecutor makes the recommendation in the plea agreement, he or she has kept the government's side of the bargain. That means you have to keep your side of the bargain, and cannot take back your guilty plea if the judge gives you a different sentence than you hoped for.

Judges in this district often sentence within the Guideline range contemplated by the plea agreement, but the judge does not have to follow the recommendation. The judge can legally sentence you up to the maximum sentence the statute of conviction allows. Plea agreements are put in writing and signed by the defendant, defense counsel, and the prosecutor. Before signing a plea agreement, read it carefully and make sure you understand all of it. Your attorney will go over it with you, with an interpreter that speaks your native language if you need one, and answer any questions you may have.


If you decide to change your plea to guilty, there will be a Change of Plea hearing. If you plead guilty, you are giving up many valuable constitutional rights. Your lawyer will discuss these with you before you decide to accept a plea offer. The judge will also want to make sure that you understand the rights you are giving up. The judge will make sure that you understand what is going on, and that you are pleading guilty because you want to and not because someone is forcing you. The judge will go through your rights one by one. The judge will make sure you understand the possible sentences. The judge will also ask you to admit facts supporting the charges to which you are pleading guilty. Each judge handles changes of plea a little differently. Ask your lawyer what to expect.


If you were out of custody before your plea, the judge might have you taken into custody after your plea. Discuss this possibility with your attorney.



The U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to a trial by jury, except in some misdemeanor cases. Federal trials can be complicated, and you must help your attorney and other members of your legal team with anything that they ask you. Your attorney has a lot of experience with trials. Some decisions, like whether to testify, are yours to make after advice from your attorney. Other decisions, involving legal strategy and the way that your case should be presented, are for your attorney to make. You will be kept informed about these decisions.

It is the prosecutor's job at a trial to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. It is not your job to prove you are innocent. If the prosecutor does not prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, you must be found not guilty.


The law says that you must be tried no earlier than 30 days or later than 70 days after your first appearance. There are exceptions which can be granted at the request of the prosecutor, a co-defendant, or your own attorney. These could extend the 70 day limit. You may hear the term “excludable time.” This means that a certain period of time the court needs to make decisions about your case, or a certain period of time your lawyer needs to prepare your case, is not counted toward the 70 day limit. We say that "the clock stops" for those periods of time.


A jury of 12 people will hear your case and decide the facts. You, your attorney, the prosecutor, and the judge will all participate in deciding who should be on the jury. The jury will be selected and then sworn in. You can give up your right to a jury if you and your lawyer decide you would be better off having the judge decide your case, and if the prosecutor also agrees to waive the jury.


Each side will get to make a statement to the jury about what the case is about, what the evidence will be, and what the jury will have to decide.


The government will then call witnesses and show evidence to the jury about the charges against you. After the prosecutor questions a witness, your attorney will have the chance to ask that witness questions. This is called cross-examination.


After the government finishes, your attorney will have the chance to present any witnesses and evidence that will help your case. The defense does not have to present any evidence. If it does, the government will be able to cross examine your witnesses. You will also have to decide if you want to testify. Your attorney should help you with this decision, including telling you the risks that are involved. The final decision about whether you testify is yours.


If you put on a defense case, the government will have the chance to rebut it. That means showing the jury evidence to contradict your defense.


When both sides are done presenting their evidence, each side gets a chance to tell the jury what they think the evidence means, and how the jury should decide the case. The prosecutor goes first, then your lawyer, then the prosecutor gets the final word. This is because the government has the burden of proving its case against you.


The judge will tell the jury what the law is, and what questions they will have to answer about your guilt or innocence. The lawyers for both sides will have a chance to help the judge choose what instructions to give.


The jury will leave the courtroom and try to decide on a verdict. Every one of the jurors must agree. If they cannot unanimously agree on a verdict, then you have a hung jury and the judge will declare a mistrial. A mistrial may mean that you must go through the whole trial process again or, the government may offer you a better plea bargain to avoid a second trial. Remember, no two trials are alike. Your attorney will answer any specific questions you have about your particular trial.



Whether you plead guilty or are found guilty after a trial, generally you will be sentenced about 14 weeks later. Your sentence will be based in part on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The Guidelines are an advisory set of rules for all federal sentences. Your attorney will review your Guidelines with you, to show you how these rules apply to your case.

The Guidelines work by giving scores to two different parts of your case: (1) your criminal record, and (2) the particular offense for which you will be sentenced. A chart tells the judge what sentence the Guidelines recommend in your case, according to these two scores.

First, the Guidelines rate your criminal history by giving “points” to each of your prior convictions. The total number of “points” will put you in a “Criminal History Category,” ranging from I to VI. Figuring out your Criminal History Category can be very complicated. Your attorney will discuss this with you in detail.

Second, the Guidelines rate your offense. The Guidelines give a particular score, called an “Offense Level," to every federal offense. The scores range from 1 (for very minor offenses) to 43 (for very serious offenses). This number may then be "adjusted" according to the particular characteristics of your case. Adjustments can raise or lower the Offense Level. For example, if you plead guilty you will usually get points off your Offense Level. Your attorney will explain any adjustments which could affect your sentence.

The Guidelines Sentencing Table is a chart that shows what sentence is required for all possible combinations of Criminal History Category and Offense Level. Your attorney can show you the Table and explain how it works. Based on your Criminal History Category and Offense Level, the Table will give a sentencing "range." This is the number of months that you could spend in prison. The "low end" of the range is the minimum that the Guidelines recommend the judge give you, and the "high end" is the maximum the Guidelines recommend. For example, if your “range” is 121-135, this means that the Guidelines recommend the judge sentence you anywhere from 121 to 135 months in prison.

Figuring out the Guidelines can be difficult. Your attorney will spend time reviewing your Guidelines with you. You will know your likely Guidelines range before you enter your guilty plea or go to trial.

The judge will also consider other factors when deciding the correct sentence for you. Then include facts about your background, what you have done to rehabilitate yourself, and what your future plans are.


"Departures” from the recommended Guidelines sentencing ranges are allowed in some situations. The judge can depart upward, giving you a sentence higher than your Guidelines range, or downward, giving you a sentence lower than your Guidelines range. Departures are rare. Ask your lawyer if there are any grounds for a downward departure in your case.


The U.S. Probation Office helps the judge figure out what sentence you should receive. After a guilty plea or verdict, a probation officer will want to interview you. The probation officer works for the court, and is not your advocate like your lawyer is. You do not have to talk to the probation officer. Your attorney will help you make this decision. If you are interviewed, your attorney will go with you.

If you are interviewed, do not lie to the probation officer. It is a crime to do so, and may lead to a worse sentence. You can refuse to answer any question, but whatever you do say must be the truth.

After the interview, the probation officer will write a Presentence Report for the judge. The "PSR" discusses your federal case, your background, family, criminal history, education, career, mental and physical health, and other information. Probation may interview family members or employers, and may check the information you provide about yourself. The probation officer may also talk to the prosecutor and case agent. Probation also figures out your Guidelines scores and sentencing range, and recommends to the judge what specific sentence you should get within your range. The judge relies heavily on Probation's recommendation.


The probation officer will send a copy of the PSR to your lawyer. You will get to review the PSR, and tell your lawyer if there are any factual mistakes. Your lawyer will look for legal mistakes. Your lawyer may file objections to the PSR about any changes that should be made. The judge will consider any objections at the sentencing hearing and decide whether to revise your PSR before it becomes final.


In most cases, about 14 weeks after your guilty plea or verdict, you will go back to court for sentencing, your lawyer and the prosecutor will tell the judge how they think you should be sentenced. Sometimes , they will agree about the sentence, and sometimes they will not. Your lawyer may have filed a motion before the hearing, arguing for a particular sentence. The judge will announce the final decision at the sentencing hearing. Even if you have a plea agreement, the sentence may not be what you and the prosecutor agreed on. Usually, however, the judges will give advance notice if they do not intend to sentence within the agreement.

At the hearing, the judge will ask whether you have read your PSR and discussed it with your lawyer. If your lawyer filed objections to the PSR, factual or legal, the judge will rule on the objections. The judge will then ask your lawyer and the prosecutor if they wish to say anything about your sentence. The judge will ask you if you wish to say anything. It is your absolute right to speak if you want to, but you do not have to. You can say anything you like to the judge about yourself or your case, but should discuss it with your attorney in advance. You can also write the judge a letter instead. After listening to everyone, the judge will impose your sentence.
If you are sentenced to prison, your attorney can ask the judge to recommend that you serve your time in a certain part of the country, at a particular prison, or in a special program like drug rehabilitation. The judge's recommendation does not guarantee that you will go where you want. That will be up to the Bureau of Prisons.


After sentencing, you will be taken back to jail if you were detained. If you were out of custody, you may be taken into custody in the courtroom, or you may be given a surrender date. The judge will sign a document called a Judgment, which then must make its way through the federal court system to the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"). The BOP reviews your PSR, any criminal history, gang affiliation, medical issues, and/or recommendations from the judge, and then decides where you should serve your time. It may take a month or even more before you are finally transported to federal prison or given a prison to report to.



There is no federal parole. You will serve your entire sentence, minus 15% good time credit. The 15% credit is not automatic, but is applied if you have no disciplinary problems. There is no good time credit for sentences of one year or less. You will also get credit for time served, as long as you were not also serving another sentence. Ask your lawyer to calculate your expected release date for you.


Most (but not all) federal prisons send inmates to a halfway house for the last few months of their sentence. The halfway house is to help you adjust back into the community. It has curfews, rules, drug tests, etc. You are not guaranteed to go to a halfway house before your prison term is up. If you are not a U.S. citizen, or do not have a green card, you will not go to a halfway house. If you are subject to deportation, that will happen after release.

Supervised Release:

99% of all federal inmates are placed on supervised release after their prison term is over. Your supervised release begins the day you are released from federal prison or a halfway house. Supervised release is like being on probation or parole, only after your entire prison sentence is served. A federal Probation Officer will supervise you. If you do not agree with proposed changes to your conditions of supervised release, call the duty attorney at our office to ask for help.


If you are on probation or supervised release, you will be supervised by a U.S. Probation Officer. Expect your probation officer to be actively involved in supervising you. Probation and supervised release involve strict rules called "conditions," which include drug testing and staying out of trouble. It is the probation officer's job to make sure that you follow these rules, and to report to the judge if you do not.


If you have problems, call the duty attorney at our office.


If your probation officer thinks you have broken one of your conditions, you may be charged with its violation. If the judge finds that you have violated a condition, you could go to prison.

If you are having trouble with your probation officer or think you are in danger of being violated, call your attorney or the duty attorney at our office. Often we can resolve a supervision problem before there is a formal violation charge.


Your probation officer or the prosecutor may file a violation notice, telling the judge that they think you have violated a condition.


You will usually appear before the same judge who sentenced you. The judge will explain your rights and make sure you have a lawyer. Even if you had an Assistant Federal Defender before, a new attorney will probably represent you.

Instead of pleading guilty or not guilty, you will admit or deny the charged violation(s). This may happen at a separate court date shortly after your initial appearance.


If you deny the charges, there may be a hearing where both sides have the chance to put on witnesses and evidence.

There is no jury; the judge decides what happened. It is your decision whether or not to testify. The rules at a violation hearing are somewhat different from those at trial. Your lawyer will explain more.


If the judge finds that you violated the conditions of your probation, he can either keep you on probation or revoke your probation. If probation is continued, the judge can change the conditions. If probation is revoked, the judge will resentence you. The Sentencing Guidelines apply to revocations. Your lawyer will explain more.


Supervised release is different from parole. Parole substitutes for part of a prison sentence, and if you violate you just serve the rest of your sentence. Supervised release is a separate part of your federal sentence that follows prison. If you violate, you will get a new prison term for the violation even if you served all the time on your original sentence. Also, your sentence for the violation can include another term of supervised release after you get out of prison again. Your lawyer will explain how the Sentencing Guidelines apply to your situation.


All violations of the law are also violations of supervision. If you get arrested on state or federal charges while on supervision, you will probably be charged with a violation of conditions in federal court. Your sentence for the violation will be separate from whatever sentence you might get in the other case, and may run consecutively to it. Your sentence for the violation is punishment for disobeying the federal court; your sentence in the new case is the punishment for whatever you did to break the law. Discuss this with your attorney.


In general, you have a right to appeal your conviction and/or your sentence. You may have waived your appeal in a plea deal, however. You need to file a notice of appeal within 10 days of the judgment against you. Your appeal will be decided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

You have the right to an attorney on appeal. If our office represented you in district court, we will also handle your appeal unless we have a conflict. In that case, if you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint an attorney from outside this office. If you had a private lawyer before but have run out of money, you may ask to have counsel appointed for your appeal.


The reason for an appeal is to correct legal errors. The appeals court will not decide whether the jury was right, or whether the sentence is fair. Being unhappy with the outcome of your case is not grounds for appeal. You will win your appeal only if the appeals court decides that the judge made a serious legal error in your case.

Also, appeals are limited to the evidence that was presented in district court. You can't add new evidence in an appeal.


If you pled guilty, you gave up the right to appeal any rulings that the judge made before your plea. If you lost a motion to suppress evidence, for example, you can only appeal the judge's ruling if you have a special "conditional plea agreement" that allows you to appeal that issue. If you went to trial, on the other hand, you can appeal any rulings the judge made before, during, or after the trial.

Many plea agreements in this district have "waivers" saying that you give up your right to appeal some issues. What you can and can't appeal depends on the language in your waiver. Talk to your lawyer about the "waiver of appeal" in your plea agreement. There may be some things that you can try to appeal even after a waiver. Your attorney will figure out what issues may be appealable.


If you have been sentenced to prison, you will probably start serving your sentence even if you appeal. You can ask the judge who sentenced you to release you until your appeal is decided. If he or she refuses, you can ask the appeals court. Your lawyer will file these motions for you. However, you will only be released during your appeal if the court finds two things: (1) that you are not dangerous and won't flee, and (2) that you are likely to win your appeal. This does not happen very often.


If you lose in the Ninth Circuit, we can try to take your case to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court does not have to take your case. The Justices only accept a few very important cases for review every year. If your attorney files a "petition for writ of certiorari," which asks the Court to consider your case, and if "cert" is granted, the Supreme Court will make the final decision in your case. If "cert" is denied, the Ninth Circuit's decision will stand. The entire appeals process can take two years or more.


Just as state prisoners can file habeas corpus petitions, federal prisoners can file "motions attacking the sentence" under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. A § 2255 motion usually comes after an appeal, and usually claims that your constitutional rights were violated. You must file within one year of the date that your conviction becomes final. There is no right to appointed counsel. You must file by yourself and ask the court to appoint a lawyer for you. If counsel is not appointed, you will have to represent yourself.