Are public defenders lawyers?
Yes. Public defenders are licensed attorneys who have chosen to specialize in criminal law.
How do I get a public defender?
Public defenders are appointed by the Court to represent people who cannot afford to hire their own lawyer. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, ask the judge at your arraignment (first court date) to appoint an attorney and the public defender will be appointed.
What fees will I be charged if I am represented by the Public Defender?
There is a $50 registration fee when the Public Defender is appointed. At the end of your case, the judge will have a hearing to determine if you have the ability to pay attorney fees. Aside from the registration fee, the Public Defender fees are $150/hour.
What should I remember while my case is pending?
Do not talk to anyone about your case, other than your attorney and their team. Your attorney and their team are not allowed to tell anyone about your conversations, but anyone else may later be forced to testify against you. If you are in custody, remember that calls at the jail are recorded and can be given to the District Attorney's office. Letters are copied and can also be given to the District Attorney's Office. If you write to your attorney, make sure the letter and envelope are marked "attorney-client privilege." Do not write a letter to the District Attorney or court. You must appear and be on time for all court appearances. If you are late or do not show up for court, the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. If there is an emergency, contact the Public Defender's Office immediately. If you move or change your telephone number contact your attorney right away.
What do I do if I miss my court date?
If your case is in Visalia, you should go to Room 124 in the Visalia Courthouse at 221 S Mooney Blvd before 8:15 and ask to be put on calendar as a walk in. If your case is in Porterville, you should go to the window at the Porterville Courthouse at 300 E Olive Ave before 8:15 to be on calendar as a walk in.
What kinds of cases does the Public Defender handle?
The Public Defender handles criminal cases as well as minors in juvenile delinquency cases, proposed conservatees in L.P.S. and probate conservatorship cases, and persons accused of contempt in civil cases. The Public Defender does not represent people who are being sued, evicted, have worker's compensation claims, etc.