Volume 79, Number 6

December 2004

The Trials and Tribulations of Petty Offenses in the Federal Courts

Mary C. Warner

Only one rule of criminal procedure applies to the trial of alleged petty offenders in federal court. This rule establishes a baseline for the trial of petty offenders. However, district courts implement that baseline in many diverse ways. The procedures vary dramatically, and there is little or no information available to defendants in order to prepare them for court. Court-appointed counsel is provided in very few cases. In this Note, Mary Warner examines the systemic problems with the current procedures governing the trial of alleged petty offenders. With the limited information available on how petty offenses are tried in various districts, she first surveys district court procedures. Based on the application of procedural rules in the various district courts, she then analyzes how current practices fall short of constitutional norms and efficient best practices.