Author: Federal Public Defender, CDCA

Categorical Approach Update

Posted on July 20, 2017

United States v. Ochoa, __ F.3d __, 2017 WL 2836820 (9th Cir. July 3, 2017): The Court held that a conviction for conspiring to export defense articles without a license under 18 U.S.C. §371 and 22 U.S.C. §2778 was not categorically a firearms offense providing grounds for deportation (under either 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(43)(C) or 8 U.S.C. §1227(a)(2)(C)), and the statute was not divisible, so the modified categorical approach could not be used. United States v. Strickland, __ F.3d __, 2017 WL 2723926 (9th Cir. June […]..

New Evidence Helps Free Client From Life Sentence for Attempted Robbery

Posted on July 10, 2017

A Los Angeles man represented by the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Central District of California was freed from state prison this week after serving 10 years of a 40-years-to-life sentence for attempted robbery.  The FPD-CDCA identified new evidence concerning the offense and the client’s culpability, which led to negotiations with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.  With assistance from Loyola’s Project for the Innocent, the parties agreed to modify the client’s sentence to result in his release from custody.  The agreement also […]..

How can I apply to STAR?

Posted on July 1, 2017

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 (  […]..

What is an arraignment?

Posted on June 9, 2017

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 […]..

Who qualifies for CASA?

Posted on June 9, 2017

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 […]..

How does someone apply to the CASA program?

Posted on June 9, 2017

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 […]..

How are the CASA participants selected?

Posted on June 9, 2017

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 […]..

What is the difference between Track 1 and Track 2 in CASA?

Posted on June 9, 2017

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 […]..

If selected, what does the CASA participant have to do in order to graduate?

Posted on June 9, 2017

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 […]..

Are there incentives and sanctions during participation in CASA?

Posted on June 9, 2017

Yes!  Although the most obvious incentive is a dismissal or a sentence of probation rather than prison, program participants are also provided with incentives in the form of gift cards and limited Second Chance Act support for school or work-related expenses when available. Depending on the nature of the program violation, sanctions may range from a verbal reprimand from the court and team, additional assignments and requirements, a short term of “flash incarceration”, or the involuntary termination from CASA and the imposition of sentence as […]..