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Public Defender's Office

The Public Defender’s Office provides legal counsel to indigent persons who have been charged with committing a felony or a misdemeanor. If you are charged with a crime and cannot afford an attorney, you can ask the Superior Court judge to appoint the Public Defender to represent you. The Court initially determines whether or not a person is "indigent" or financially incapable of hiring a private attorney. This usually takes place at the first court appearance. You are asked if you can afford an attorney and, if not, you fill out a financial form. The Public Defender’s Office initially reviews the financial forms to determine qualification for appointed counsel.

By appointment of the Superior Court judge, the Public Defender provides legal counsel to juveniles charged with committing a crime. The Public Defender may also represent those who are involuntarily committed to mental institutions and placed in an involuntary conservatorship. Our office does not handle infractions, civil or family law matters.

In the event there is some kind of conflict where the Public Defender’s Office cannot represent you, your case is referred to the Conflict Panel. The Conflict Panel consists of local private attorneys. The case is assigned to one of these attorneys by the Conflict Administrator

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get an attorney?

If you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor and are unable to afford an attorney, the Public Defender’s Office may be appointed to represent you. It is important that you discuss your case with your attorney during all stages of the case to ensure the best possible level of representation.

How do I get a Public Defender appointed to my case?

If you are out of custody the court will make the determination if you qualify for the services of a Public Defender after you have completed a financial form, under penalty of perjury. In general, if you are in custody the court will automatically appoint a Public Defender unless you have already retained the services of a private attorney. If you obtained private counsel but are unable to afford continued services, notify the court and request that a Public Defender be appointed.

Can I drop by the Public Defender's Office for legal advice if the court has not appointed me?

No. Our office welcomes the public. However, the Public Defender is only allowed to represent clients when appointed by the court. If you need general information our office may be able to assist.

Do clients have to pay for the services of the Public Defender?

Clients who are appointed a Public Defender are required to pay a $25 fee to the Court. To the extent they are financially able, they are required to reimburse the County for the cost of these services at the conclusion of their case. The Public Defender will provide the court with the costs incurred and the court makes the determination of the client’s financial responsibility.