Airport Courthouse in Los Angeles: A Defense Attorney’s Perspective

Jerod Gunsberg, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

There has been quite a few changes to the Los Angeles Superior Court system lately. Due to budget cuts, many of the criminal courts have closed and the cases have transferred to other courts. Most notably, the Beverly Hills courthouse has closed and nearly all criminal matters (except traffic citation arraignments) will be heard at the Airport Courthouse (also known as the LAX Courthouse).

Airport is a very busy courthouse, and it’s about to become even busier with all the cases from Beverly Hills and West Hollywood headed there. If you or a loved one are facing charges there, it is a good idea to get an experienced criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the policies, procedures and people in that courthouse. I am in that courthouse regularly and am happy to talk to you about the situation.

I thought it also may be helpful to give a quick overview of how the court operates.

If you were arrested by the Beverly Hills Police Department or the West Hollywood Sheriff Department, your case is going to be heard in the Airport Courthouse. Additionally, if you were arrested by LAPD Pacific Division, the Culver City Police Department, Hawthorne Police (felony cases only for Hawthorne) or the UCLA Police, your case is in the Airport Courthouse. If you were arrested by the California Highway Patrol or Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department in certain parts of Los Angeles, your cases will go to the Airport Court. And of course, if you were arrested by Los Angeles Airport Police your case will be at the Airport Courthouse.

Before we start, an important note: This is not an official court information web page, this is for general information only. Check your citation, bail paperwork, or other official communication to find out which court you will need to appear in.

Here is what happens in the Airport Courthouse:

If you are Charged with a Felony at the Airport Courthouse

If you are charged with a felony, your case will be set for arraignment in Department 144.  At your first court appearance, you will hear the official charges filed against you (which may be different than the charges you were arrested on). Your attorney will also get a copy of the police report. From there, your attorney will most likely enter a plea of “not guilty” and the case will either be set for a preliminary hearing or for the Early Disposition Hearing (“EDP”).

If the case is set for preliminary hearing, your next court appearance will be in another courtroom in the Airport courthouse (most likely Dept. 142).  At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution must prove that there is “reasonable cause” to believe a crime was committed and that the defendant committed the crime. If the prosecution can prove this, the court will find that there is sufficient evidence to send the case in the trial court. If the court finds that there is reasonable cause to believe a crime has been committed.  Sometimes a case can be dismissed at the preliminary hearing or charges can be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors. Often charges are changed or charges are added, it all depends on the evidence presented at the hearing

Keep in mind though, that the overwhelming majority of cases make it past prelim.  The prosecution’s standard of proof is very low, much lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard at trial.


Some felony cases are resolved in Dept. 144  in what’s called the “Early Disposition Program” also known as (“EDP”).  In these cases, instead of heading for a preliminary hearing after arraignment, your case will go back to Dept. 144 one more time. The point of this hearing is to try and resolve the case without a preliminary hearing or trial.

In preparation for that hearing, your lawyer enters into negotiation with the District Attorney’s Office and the probation department prepares a report regarding your case and your history with the criminal justice.  At the EDP hearing, if you’ve accepted an offer negotiated by your attorney and the judge agrees to accept the plea bargain, the case will be resolved then.  Another option at EDP is “pleading open” to the court and the court sentences as it sees fit.  Not all cases are eligible for EDP and even if cases are eligible, it’s often NOT a good idea to plead guilty quickly.  It all depends on the facts of your case and life circumstances. Felony convictions are serious business with serious consequences and should not be taken lightly. Do NOT plead guilty at EDP without thoroughly reviewing all your options with your attorney.

After the preliminary hearing, your case will be sent to the trial court.  This does not mean that your case will automatically go to trial.  Within 15 days of the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, you’re arraigned on the charges based on the state of the evidence after the prelim. After the arraignment, you have a right to a felony trial within 60 days.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor at the Airport Courthouse

If you are charged with a misdemeanor at the Airport Courthouse, your case will be handled by either the Los Angeles City Attorney (if you were arrested in the city of Los Angeles), the Santa Monica City Attorney (if you were arrested in Santa Monica) or by the Los Angeles County District Attorney (if your crime occurred somewhere outside of the actual city of Los Angeles, like in Culver City or Hawthorne).

If your case is recued to a misdemeanor and you are out of custody, you have a right to trial within 45 days of the arraignment.  If you are in custody, you have a right to trial within 30 days of arraignment.

I am an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who appears regularly in the Airport Courthouse. I provide a free consultation by phone or in person.  I am happy to discuss your case, you can call me at 323-633-3423 or use the secure contact form on this page.

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