The primary responsibility of the Public Defender's Office is to ensure the representation of any person - whether in custody or not - who has been accused of a crime, but is currently unable to afford to hire private defense counsel. If you have been arrested and remain in custody, you will be brought to a local court usually within 48 hours of your arrest. If you are not in custody, you will be given a time and place to appear for your first court date. The first court date is called the arraignment. When you first appear in court for your arraignment, you may appear with private counsel.
If you are not able to hire a private attorney the judge will ask you if you intend to hire an attorney, or if you are requesting the Public Defender be appointed to represent you. The court will have you fill out a financial affidavit. You must do so completely and accurately. The court makes the primary determination of your eligibility for our services. If there is question as to whether or not you qualify, the court may require you to go to Collections and fill out additional paperwork.
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If you think a warrant may have been issued for your arrest, you can check and see if you are correct. If you missed a court date and believe a warrant was issued for your arrest and you are represented by a lawyer, you should immediately contact them. They should be able to confirm if a warrant was issued.
If a warrant has been issued, you can surrender yourself to the jail. Your other option is to surrender at the holding area of the courthouse. That entry is on the Main Street side of the courthouse. They accept surrenders on misdemeanor cases on Friday mornings. You must be there no later than 8 a.m. Your case will probably be heard on a morning calendar. They accept felony surrenders on Thursday mornings. Again, you must be there no later than 8 a.m. Felonies will be taken to the jail and booked. They will not appear until the Thursday afternoon calendar.
If you don’t know your next court date, don’t put off calling to find out. Missing a court date without a really good reason might result in the judge taking you into custody when you do show up or a warrant being issued for your arrest. The easiest way to find out your next court date is to contact your Deputy Public Defender. If he or she is not available, you can call the Public Defender’s office and most likely our staff will be able to tell you your next court date. Whenever you call a Public Defender Office, it is always very helpful to have your case number available.
If you have not yet appeared in court, are not represented by the public defender's office or another attorney, and have questions about your case, you may call the court clerk directly at 530-265-1311.
If you already posted bail, were released on a promise to appear, or were sent a courtesy notice to appear for arraignment, typically that will remain the same. If you voluntarily appeared on a courtesy notice, release on a signed promise to appear or release on pre-trial release is generally granted. However, if you have warrants, are on probation, or have other charges pending, that status may change.
Similarly, if you bailed on a charge of driving while intoxicated, but then it was determined that you have one or more prior convictions within 10 years, this could lead to more serious charges and possible remand. The same is often true if you have been previously convicted of a serious or violent felony (a "strike"), and are being charged with a new felony.
The first court date in a criminal matter is called an arraignment. The judge will briefly advise you of your constitutional rights. You will be advised of the charges that have been filed against you. These may be different from what you were arrested for.
The prosecutor may file additional or fewer charges than the officer saw fit to charge. You will be asked if you would like to have an attorney and that if you can't afford one, an attorney will be appointed to represent you. Your custody status will be addressed: bail may be set or you may be released on your own recognizance or on pre-trial release.
The judge may put conditions of release on you depending on the nature of the charges as well as your history. On the issue of bail, sometimes the prosecutor will refer to some of the allegations. It is not appropriate or in your best interest to comment on the facts or allegations. Any comments you make can be used against you at trial. If you are requesting that the Public Defender's Office be appointed to represent you, you will be required to fill out a financial affidavit to determine if you qualify for their services.
Being charged in a criminal matter can be extremely traumatic. It is perfectly understandable that you might want to speak with a Deputy Public Defender before your first scheduled court date. If this is the case, you do not have to wait for your first court appearance to talk to a Deputy Public Defender. The best way to speak to a Deputy Public Defender is to call the Public Defender's Office and ask to speak to an attorney. If you are in custody, there is a direct line to our office.
A Deputy Public Defender may not be immediately available to answer your call because most Public Defenders spend much of their time representing their clients and not at their desks. The best times to call are usually early in the morning and late in the business day. If an attorney is not immediately available a message will be left for a Deputy Public Defender to return your call as soon as possible. If you feel your matter is urgent, be sure to say so when you call any Public Defender office.
Keep in mind, however, that the attorney you talk to before your court date will probably know nothing about your case and will not know your specific charges or have your police reports at his or her fingertips. In that situation, the attorney you speak with will do his or her best to discuss how the law may affect you, and what your rights are, as well as how your legal representative can acquire and preserve evidence to assist you in your case. It is quite natural to feel overwhelmed if you have been charged in a criminal case. If this ever happens to you, do not hesitate to call the Public Defender's Office for assistance. That is what we are here for.
Can I get a lawyer? Before an individual who is in custody may be questioned regarding a crime, the law requires the police to inform that person that they have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. If the person does not give up the right to an attorney, the police must arrange for the presence of an attorney before questioning can take place.
Likewise, if the police wish to place a person who has been arrested into a lineup, that person has the right to the presence of an attorney at the lineup. The Public Defender has attorneys on call to serve those functions. A Deputy Public Defender who goes to the police station or jail serves as the person's attorney in the same way as if the attorney had been retained to represent the person. The attorney represents you, the client, not the police.
Absolutely! All Deputy Public Defenders are full-fledged attorneys who are members of the State Bar and have been licensed to practice law in the State of California. In order to become a Deputy Public Defender, any individual who has already passed the State Bar examination must also go through a rigorous interview and oral examination to ascertain whether he or she has the intellectual ability, the legal knowledge, and the commitment to practice criminal defense law. They only practice criminal defense.
Throughout their entire careers as Deputy Public Defenders, all attorneys are further required to continue their legal education by attending regular classes and seminars regarding any advances in the practice of criminal defense law.
First, if you can afford to hire an attorney, you do not qualify for the services of the Public Defender and should hire your own lawyer. The Public Defender's Office only represents people who cannot afford to hire an attorney. If you really can't afford to hire an attorney, but want to borrow the money from family or friends because you believe you have a better chance with a private attorney, consider the following. Public defenders have long suffered from a public perception as second rate lawyers who couldn't get a "real" job and had to "settle" for working for starvation wages as a deputy public defender. We also suffer from the belief by some that we don't really work hard for our clients.
These are wholly untrue stereotypes. The attorneys who choose to work as deputy public defenders are some of the brightest, best educated, and most dedicated lawyers there are. The Nevada County Public Defender's Office is made up of people who want to practice nothing but criminal law. They don't do divorces or "chase ambulances" or write wills. They come from the finest law schools in the country. While almost all of them could earn more money if that was the most important thing to them, they still get paid pretty well. The salary range is commensurate with the District Attorney's office.
The majority of our lawyers never wanted to practice any other kind of law, and have dedicated their careers to criminal defense work, and being deputy public defenders, because they believe in what they do and like doing it. Because our lawyers don't have to worry about anything but representing their clients, they generally do it very well. They are in court nearly every day. They know all the "ins and outs" of the courts in which they practice. They also try more jury trials in a year than most lawyers try in a lifetime. They know what a case is worth in a settlement. More than 95% of all criminal cases settle before trial, nationwide. Public defenders like trying cases, they don't have to be concerned with the financial implications that going to trial may involve for a retained attorney and his or her client. So, if your deputy public defender recommends a plea bargain, it is because he or she honestly believes it is in your best interest to settle the case, not because financial concerns require it.
You can call them at 530-265-1400 and ask to speak to them. If you do not know who your Deputy Public Defender is, the secretarial staff can figure that out with your name. It also is helpful if you have your case number. If you are directed to voicemail, please speak slowly and clearly and identify yourself by first and last name. Without both your first and last name, we might not know who you are. Make sure you leave a good phone number and if that number changes, please update us.
Unfortunately, no. Caseloads, the seriousness of your case and your history as well as the skill and experience of the attorney are just some of the considerations made when determining who is assigned to which case.
It is understandable that defendants feel the system is not responsive to their needs or that they are not being treated fairly. Being charged with a criminal offense is often frightening and it is difficult to understand the legal process, jargon and consequences. The role of the defense attorney is to vigorously represent the interests of his or her client. This includes ensuring that the client is well-informed and understands what is happening to him or her.
If a client is dissatisfied with the work of the assigned Deputy Public Defender the client should contact the Public Defender, Keri Klein at 530-265-1400.
Contact our office for assistance and information on expungement options.