Misdemeanor FAQs

Misdemeanors are crimes where the maximum possible sentence is one year or less. Federal misdemeanors are divided into two categories: petty offenses, which have a maximum sentence of six months or less; and Class A misdemeanors which have a maximum sentence of more than six months. Petty offenses are administered by the court’s Central Violation Bureau or CVB. Class A misdemeanors are administered by the Court.

As set forth in Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, United States Magistrate Judges preside over CVB matters. Petty Offense trials are tried before the judge and not a jury. Should you agree to plead guilty to a petty offense charge, the fine is administered by the CVB.

The Central Violations Bureau (CVB) handles petty offenses 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, and any other areas that are patrolled or under the jurisdiction of the federal government. In the Western District of Washington, CVB matters include violations occurring on Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), Naval Base Kitsap, Naval Station Whitney Island, Naval Base Everett, the Naval shipyard in Bremerton, and other local military installations. Federal citations are issued by law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Protective Service (FPS), the U.S. Park Police, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Department of Defense Police, U.S. Coast Guard, Army, Airforce, Marines & Navy Security Forces, U.S. Postal Police U.S. Customs, U.S. Border Police and, V.A. Police. The CVB schedules petty offense initial appearances and processes payments on fines.

In the Western District of Washington most misdemeanor cases are heard at the Federal Courthouse in Tacoma. Cases are also heard in Seattle and Bellingham.

The CVB can answer questions about the time and place of your initial court appearance. The CVB can be reached at (800)-827-2982. The CVB cannot provide legal advice.

You can contact the Central Violations Bureau by calling (800)-827-2982. Use option 4 to hear an automated recording with status of your ticket.

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 in a National Park, you likely will be afforded court-appointed counsel. The reason for this is that DUI convictions will most often include the possibility of at least one day in jail. The Court does not typically appoint counsel for traffic infractions, trespass violations, and most Driving While License Suspended charges. If you are not eligible for a court appointed attorney, you can choose to represent yourself or to hire an attorney to represent you.

If you intend to contest your charges, you must appear in Washington. If you are interested in resolving your case through a guilty plea, there are provisions under the Rules of Federal Criminal Procedure that will allow you to resolve your transfer of your case for plea and sentencing. You should contact the court clerk at (253) 882-3800.

Petty Offense hearings can often be rescheduled. To reschedule a hearing please call (253) 882-3800.

If you wish to pay the amount indicated on a violation notice, you can make a payment by credit or debit card on the CVB website. For additional information regarding CVB matters, you can call 1-800-827-2982.

Upon conviction the court will impose a general court Victims Impact Fee of $5.00-$10.00, depending on the type of offense. There is a $25.00 processing fee assessed in all CVB cases. When a CVB case results in a conviction, a $25.00 processing fee will be added to any imposed fine.

If you miss a court appearance, the court may authorize a warrant for your arrest. To attempt to reschedule a hearing on a warrant please call (253) 882-3800. The court clerk will be able to tell you whether you can schedule a hearing or if you are required to turn yourself in to take care of the warrant.