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Petty Offenses

Frequently Asked Questions

Petty Offenses

I have received a ticket while on federal property, now what do I do?
If you have received a ticket for a minor offense while on federal property, you generally have the option of either paying the fine or appearing in federal court to contest your ticket. If you choose to pay the fine, please follow the instructions on the ticket you received. If you choose to contest your ticket, do not pay. You will soon receive a letter giving you a date on which to appear in federal court. If the officer wrote a date on your ticket, please call our office prior to your date to see if you are on the court's calendar.

If a ticket is marked “optional appearance” by the issuing officer, you may do one of the following:

  • Pay the fine before the court date. A conviction will not be reported to the California DMV. The case will thereby be closed, and you need not appear in court.

  • Do not pay the fine, and appear in court on the scheduled date, time, and place to contest the ticket. (You may also call the appropriate location as indicated below and ask to reschedule your appearance, so long as your scheduled appearance date has not yet passed.)

If a ticket is marked “mandatory appearance” by the issuing officer:

  • You must appear in court on the scheduled date, time and place as indicated in CVB's Notice to Appear or call the appropriate location as indicated below before your scheduled court date and ask to reschedule your appearance.

I want to protest my ticket. How can I do that?
You will soon be sent a letter with a court date. You must appear on that date at the place and time specified in the letter. You should bring with you everything that supports your argument. For instance, photographs, witnesses (or a witness’ statement, signed under penalty of perjury, as to what occurred), and/or diagrams can sometimes help to prove that you were given the ticket unfairly. 

  • If your court is in Eureka/McKinleyville, the court appearances are every other month on the second Monday at 11:00 a.m. The address for the courthouse is 3140 Boeing Avenue, McKinleyville, California, 95519. If you need to reschedule, contact 707.445.3612.

  • If your court is in Hopland/Santa Rosa, the court appearances are ever other month on the second Friday at 10:30 a.m. The address for the courthouse is 99 South E. Street, Santa Rosa, California, 95404. If you need to reschedule, contact 707.445.3612.

  • If your court is in Salinas, the court appearances are every other month on the first Monday at 8:00 a.m. The address for the courthouse is 1000 South Main Street, #214, Salinas, California, 93901. If you need to reschedule, contact 408.916.2230.

  • If your court is in San Jose, the court appearances are every other month on the first Thursday at 1:00 p.m. The address for the courthouse is 280 South 1st Street, 4th Floor Confrerence Room 4090A, San Jose, California, 95113. If you need to reschedule, contact 408.916.2230.

  • If your court is in San Francisco, the court appearances are at 12:45 p.m. The address for the courthouse is 450 Golden Gate Avenue, 18th Floor (Courtroom 14), San Francisco, California 94102. If you need to reschedule, contact 415.522.2149.

What is the "Petty Offense Calendar?"
"Court" for infractions on federal property is often called the "Petty Offense Calendar." It is not like a typical federal court appearance; in San Francisco, Santa Rosa and San Jose, there is no judge, and you are not entitled to a federal public defender, although someone from our office will be present to assist you, should you have questions. The petty offense calendar is more like a structured settlement or negotiation proceeding, with representatives of the United States Attorney's Office making offers to resolve the case. In Salinas and McKinleyville, there is a judge. Someone from our office is also present. The representative of the United States Attorney's Office will also make an offer to resolve the ticket; the agreement will require the approval of the judge.

The petty offense calendar can be slow, crowded, and frustrating for those fighting tickets. The procedure, however, often produces deals that are in the defendant's interest when compared to the original fine amount, or with the consequences of a conviction at trial. Remember, moreover, that someone who has received a ticket can always assert the right to go to trial in front of a magistrate.

D.U.I. offenses, and serious drug offenses, do not qualify for the petty offense calendar. These cases begin directly before a federal magistrate.

What will happen at the "Petty Offense Calendar?"
If you have received a ticket and wish to contest your ticket, you will receive a notice giving you a court date on which to appear. In San Francisco, Santa Rosa and San Jose, when you appear on that date, you will not see a judge. In Salinas and McKinleyville, there is a judge present.

At each Petty Offense Calendar, you will have the opportunity to meet with a representative of the United States Attorney’s Office in an effort to settle your ticket. After hearing your side of what happened, the U.S. Attorney’s representative can do one of three things – dismiss the ticket, ask you to pay a fine amount (either reduced or in full) or give you the opportunity to do volunteer hours at a nonprofit for a dismissal of the citation. You can accept or reject the offer to settle your ticket. If the U.S. Attorney’s representative asks you to pay a fine and you pay the fine, it is called a forfeiture of collateral; in the Northern District of California, the fact that you have paid will not be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you do not agree with what the U.S. Attorney’s representative is asking you to do, you can tell her that you want to exercise your right to go to trial. The clerk of the court or a judge (if present) will schedule the trial date or make arrangements to notify you by letter of your court date for trial. At trial, you can represent yourself, bring your own attorney or ask the judge to appoint the Federal Public Defender's Office. Please keep in mind that if you are found guilty following your trial, it will be considered a conviction and the judge will most likely report it to the Department of Motor Vehicles and/or the state of California.

I received my letter with my court date and I cannot make it on that date. What do I do?
You should call the clerk’s office in the appropriate location right away and ask to reschedule your court date before your scheduled court date:

  • San Francisco 415.522.2149

  • Eureka and Santa Rosa 707.445.3612

  • Salinas and San Jose 408.916.2230

Can I get a payment plan or community service?
You must appear at your court date in order to request either a payment plan or completion of volunteer work/community service in lieu of a fine. Volunteer work is an option only at the San Francisco, Santa Rosa and McKinleyville courts; the representative of the U.S. Attorney's Office does not offer volunteer work as an option in San Jose or Salinas. The All volunteer work must be done at a nonprofit or not-for-profit, generally an agency that helps people and does so for free. Examples include a school, a recreation center, library or a Food Bank, for instance. Volunteer work that directly benefits a religious organization is not permitted but working with a religious organization to feed the homeless, for example, is permitted. Once the volunteer hours are completed and the required paperwork turned in, the ticket will be dismissed.

Petty Offenses

Have you received a citiation related to an offense in a National Park or the Presidio?

Felony Offenses

Have you been charged with a federal felony?

parole, early termination of supervised release, and treaty transfer

Do you have questions about federal parole, early termination of supervised release, or dealing with a treaty transfer?