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CRM 500-999

523. Rule 20 Transfers of Prisoners From the District For Plea and Sentence

Rule 20, Fed. R. Crim. P., provides for the transfer of criminal cases among districts for the limited purposes of acceptance of guilty or nolo contendere pleas and sentencing. The rule is intended to accord a defendant an opportunity to be relieved of the hardship of being removed to the district where the prosecution is pending. Advisory Committee on Rules, Note to Rule 20; United States v. Cushman, 830 F. Supp. 966 (N.D. Tex. 1993); Hutto v. United States, 309 F. Supp. 489 (D.S.C. 1970).

Under Rule 20, the transferee court acquires limited jurisdiction to take a guilty or nolo contendere plea and pronounce sentence only. A plea of not guilty, after transfer, ends the transferee court's jurisdiction and requires transfer of the matter back to the original jurisdiction. A defendant's statement that he or she wished to plead guilty or nolo contendere shall not be used against him or her. The refusal of a transferee court to receive a nolo contendere plea does not remove its jurisdiction if the defendant then enters a plea of guilty. United States v. French, 787 F.2d 1381 (9th Cir. 1986); Singleton v. Clemmer, 166 F.2d 963 (D.C.Cir.1948). One court held that only a plea of not guilty can oust the jurisdiction of the transferee court in a Rule 20 proceeding, and that a Rule 20 transfer cannot be revoked by the withdrawal by both United States Attorneys of consent to transfer even though a plea has not yet been entered by the defendant. United States v. Binion, 107 F. Supp. 680 (D.Nev. 1952). See also United States v. Roberts, 618 F.2d 530 (9th Cir.1980). But see, Hutto v. United States, 309 F. Supp. 489 (transferee court, having jurisdiction after consent of both United States Attorneys but before papers transferred or plea received by the transferee court, relinquished jurisdiction by allowing its United States Attorney to withdraw consent); see also United States v. French, 787 F.2d 1381; In re Richard Arvedon, 523 F.2d 914 (1st Cir. 1975) (a transferee court may reject an involuntary or improvident plea of guilty, but a guilty plea attributed only to defendant's desire not to return to the indicting district, is, by itself, an impermissible reason to refuse the plea and to return the case).

Rule 20 has been held to be constitutional against challenges that Article III, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution and the Sixth Amendment both provide that the trial shall be held in the State where the crime has been committed. In each case, place of venue has been held to be a personal privilege which may be waived. Jackson v. United States, 489 F.2d 695 (1st Cir.1974; Yeloushan v. United States, 339 F.2d 533 (5th Cir. 1964); Hilderbrand v. United States, 304 F.2d 716 (10th Cir. 1962).

[cited in JM 9-14.000]