Contact Information

1815 Yuba St.
Redding, CA 96001

Phone: (530) 245-7598
Fax: (530) 245-7560
Email: Public Defender

FAQ

What is a Public Defender?

Answer: Government Code §27700, authorizes the county Board of Supervisors to create an Office of the Public Defender. In those counties with a Public Defender Office, the Public Defender is a licensed attorney appointed by the Board of Supervisors to run the Office of the Public Defender. The Public Defender hires attorneys to act on his or her behalf (e.g., Assistant Public Defender, Senior Deputy Public Defender, and Deputy Public Defenders), as well as other employees (e.g. investigators, legal interns, paralegals, secretaries and legal process clerks), all of whom are dedicated to provide legal services for those people unable, because of a financial difficulty, to hire a private attorney.

What kind of cases do the Public Defender Office handle?

Answer: Attorneys from the Public Defender Office represent adults and juveniles charged with misdemeanor and felony criminal conduct and any alleged violations of the terms and conditions of his or her probation. Public Defenders cannot legally represent persons accused solely of infractions (e.g. most traffic violations, or any violation that does not legally result in a jail sentence). Public Defenders are also called upon to represent those persons who are subjected to civil proceedings under the Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Act, Latterman-Petris- Short (LPS) Act, and persons potentially subject to initial involuntary mental health commitments or commitment extensions.

What will it cost to be represented by the Public Defender Office?

Answer: Although it is subject to change, currently Shasta County has established the value of legal services to be sixty dollars ($60) per hour. This does not include associated costs (e.g., investigative services, expert witnesses, travel and lodging costs for witnesses, etc.). Whether or not an individual appointed to the Public Defender will have to reimburse the county for any costs associated with his or her case is strictly determined by the Court at the end of the person's case. It is the Court that decides whether or not a person is financially capable of reimbursing the county for all costs associated with his or her case. And, there is a statutory procedure in place that permits a person to challenge any order to reimburse the county for legal services and associated costs.

Is a Deputy Public Defender a lawyer?

Answer: Yes. The Public Defender, Assistant Public Defender, Senior Deputy Public Defender and Deputy Public Defender are all lawyers licensed to practice law in the State of California by the State Bar.

If I am arrested, do I have to talk to the police?

Answer: No. The police rely upon your voluntary desire to talk to them; no one can be forced to talk to the police. However, if you voluntary choose to talk to the police, anything you say can and will be used against you in court. If you are arrested, it is suggested that you request to speak to a lawyer and obtain advice from that lawyer before answering any questions from the police. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney for this purpose, it is incumbent upon the police to get you an attorney if they want to talk to you.

Do I have to consent to a search when asked by the police?

Answer: No. The police rely upon the moral belief that "if one does not have anything to hide, one shouldn't object to being searched." Although this may be an admirable moral belief, it is, in reality, contrary to an individual's right to privacy guaranteed to all citizens. In addition, once you give consent for the police to search, you have waived your constitutional and statutory rights to privacy and unreasonable search and seizure. The decision to consent to a search by the police is a personal one, and you should carefully weigh all of those factors that are important to you before making such a decision.

Can I get a conviction removed from my adult record?

Answer: No. Except for a finding of factual innocence [Penal Code §§ 851.8 – 851.90], nothing actually permanently removes a conviction from your adult record. However, there are several different steps that you can take to minimize the stigmatism associated with an adult criminal record. For example, you may seek permission from the court to dismiss or expunge a prior conviction [Penal Code §§ 1203.4 and 1203.4a]. Or, if your prior conviction was for a crime classified as a felony, you may be able to ask the court to reduce it to a misdemeanor [Penal Code §§ 16, 17, 18, 19, 19.2, 19.4, 19.6, 19.7]. Finally, you may be able to seek a Governor's traditional pardon [Penal Code §§ 4800 - 4813], or a Certificate of Rehabilitation [Penal Code §§ 4852.01 – 4852.21]. Each of these procedures is designed to permit you to claim that although you were convicted, the conviction was subsequently dismissed or pardoned. So, in short, the record of your conviction is never actually purged from the justice system, and if you commit a criminal act in the future, consequences from the dismissed, expunged or pardoned conviction may still flow from its existence.

How do I apply for employment with the Shasta County Public Defender Office?

Answer: Available positions are posted on the Shasta County Home Page under the Support Services Department (also known as Personnel). Open positions are also advertised through local Shasta County newspapers and in legal publications in the state of California. You may file an application with county at the Support Services Department, and when an open position occurs, all eligible candidates will be considered.

How do I get a get a Deputy Public Defender to represent me?

Answer: If you have been arrested for a crime allegedly committed in Shasta County and remain in custody, you will be brought to court, usually within 48 hours of your arrest. If you were released from custody before appearing in court, at the time of your release from custody, you will be given a date, time and place to appear in court. The first day you appear in court is called an arraignment. When you appear in court for your arraignment, you will be asked by the court if you want to be represented by an attorney. If you say yes, the court will ask you if you can afford to hire an attorney with your own money (sometimes you are asked this question by a Court Collections Officer before the judge comes out for court). If you say no, the Court will appoint the Public Defender Office. A Deputy Public Defender who handles arraignments will accept the appointment on behalf of the Office. However, that arraignment attorney may not be the actual attorney assigned to represent you in court. Once your case is opened by the Public Defender Office, a Deputy Public Defender will be assigned by the Public Defender.

Can I get legal advice from a Deputy Public Defender before he or she is appointed?

Answer: No. As a matter of law, in most circumstances, the attorneys in the Public Defender Office cannot provide legal assistance to any person not appointed to the office by the Court. There are strong public policy reasons for not providing legal advice outside of the attorney-client relationship. After the Public Defender has been appointed to represent you, an attorney from that office will be more than happy to discuss with you your case. If you are out of custody, it is important that you schedule an appointment to discuss your case with the attorney who has been assigned by the Public Defender to represent your legal interests. You may schedule an appointment by calling (530) 245-7598.

I forgot the name of my Deputy Public Defender. How can I find out who is representing me?

Answer: Telephone the Shasta County Public Defender Office at (530) 245-7598, or visit the public access window at the Public Defender Office, 1815 Yuba Street. Provide the receptionist with the information for which he or she asks and, if you have been assigned an attorney, the receptionist will tell you the assigned attorney's name. It is important to remember that the Deputy Public Defender who was present during your arraignment may not necessarily be the Deputy Public Defender who is assigned by the Public Defender to represent you during the proceedings on your case. It takes approximately two court days from your arraignment for your case to be assigned to a Deputy Public Defender.

I forgot my next court date. How do I find out when I'm supposed to appear?

Answer: Telephone the Office of the Public Defender at (530) 245-7598, or visit the public access window at the Public Defender Office, 1815 Yuba Street. Provide the receptionist with the information for which he or she asks. As long as the court staff has updated the computer, the information about your next court date should be readily available. If the computer has not been updated (it usually takes two court days from the date of your last appearance in court before the computer is updated) it may take a little more time to locate your paperwork in order to determine when you must next appear in court. Please remember that it is always extremely helpful to have your case number available when talking to someone at the Public Defender Office.

I forgot where the courthouse is, or the courtroom where my case is going to be heard. How can I find out where I'm supposed to appear?

Answer: Telephone the Office of the Public Defender at (530) 245-7598, or visit the public access window at the Public Defender Office, 1815 Yuba Street. Provide the receptionist with the information for which he or she asks. As long as the court staff has updated the computer, the information about where your case will be heard should be readily available. If the computer has not been updated (it usually takes two court days from the date of your last appearance in court before the computer is updated) it may take a little more time to locate your paperwork in order to determine where you must next appear in court. Please remember that it is always extremely helpful to have your case number available when talking to someone at the Public Defender Office.

Another way to locate your court or the Department where your case will next be heard is to call the Deputy Public Defender who is representing you in your case.

Are all court "appointed attorneys" employees of the Public Defender Office?

Answer: No. Under most circumstances, where you have the constitutional right to an attorney at public expense, the Court will appoint the Public Defender Office to represent your legal interests. However, in some situations, an ethical "conflict of interest" may arise that makes it impossible for the Public Defender Office to represent you or take care of your legal needs. A good example of this might be where the Public Defender Office is already representing another person in the same case. If the Court has appointed you to the Public Defender Officer, but a "conflict" is later declared by the Public Defender Office, the Court will be notified and it will then appoint an attorney from the Conflict Public Defender panel. The attorneys employed by the Conflict Public Defender panel are not employees of the Public Defender Office, even though they have been appointed by the court.

What happens when someone is charged with a felony?

Answer: [This is just a brief overview of the system.] The California Penal Code defines a felony as "any crime that is punishable by death or by imprisonment in state prison." In most cases, a felony prosecution starts with an arrest. Written police reports are presented to the District Attorney's Office, which then decides what charge, if any, should be filed and whether the charge will be a felony, or a misdemeanor (which is a less serious crime punishable by no more than one year in county jail, among other penalties).

Once the person is arrested for a felony, he or she is booked at an appropriate custody facility (e.g., juveniles are booked at Juvenile Hall; adults are booked at the county jail). At the time of booking for an adult, bail is set based on a predetermined schedule adopted by the Superior Court Judges of Shasta County. Juveniles cannot, as a matter of law, have bail set. They are either authorized to be released to a parent or guardian, or they are detained until their first court appearance.

An adult will be released from custody if he or she posts the correct amount of bail. Bail can be posted in one of several ways: cash, a bail bond, or pledging real property (with the permission of the Court). Any questions about how the bail bond process actually works should be referred to a licensed bail bondsman. In some cases, at the initial arraignment, the Court may order a person released on his or her 'own recognizance', a fancy way of saying, "on your written promise to appear". In even rarer cases, a person may be released from custody if the police do not believe that there is sufficient evidence with which to justify the initial arrest. This is called a PC 849(b) release. If you are released under this latter process, your arrest will be considered and treated as a "detention" only.

Felony charges may also be filed even though there has not been an actual arrest. For example, the police may conduct an investigation of a crime and identify a suspect. Rather than arrest the person suspected of committing that identified crime, the police may, instead, present their investigation to the district attorney, who may file charges with the Court. If this procedure is used, the Court will issue an arrest warrant. The district attorney may also present evidence of a crime to the Grand Jury, who has the ultimate authority to return an indictment (called a "True Bill") charging a person with a felony.

Next comes the arraignment, followed by a plea disposition meeting, and then a preliminary hearing.

What is a plea disposition meeting?

Answer: Prior to the scheduled preliminary hearing in a felony case, and prior to the scheduled jury trial in a misdemeanor case, the person will be required to appear in court for a 'plea disposition' meeting. This is a private meeting (in the Judge's chamber) between the appointed Deputy Public Defender, a Deputy District Attorney, a Probation Officer (in a felony case), and the Judge where the person's case is discussed, including any offer made by the Deputy District Attorney to settle the case. The purpose of this meeting is to determine if the case can be resolved. Although the person is present in court during these discussions, he or she will not actually be present in the Judge's chambers. If the case does not resolve after this meeting, the case is confirmed for a preliminary hearing (in a felony case) or a jury trial (in a misdemeanor case).

What is a preliminary hearing?

Answer: The preliminary hearing is a court proceeding where the District Attorney's Office presents evidence to convince a judge that there is reasonable cause to believe a felony crime has been committed - and that the person charged is the one who committed it. This hearing is not heard by a jury; and, at this point in the criminal process, the district attorney's case does not have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The primary purpose of the preliminary hearing is to weed out charges that cannot be supported by competent evidence. At a preliminary hearing, the district attorney may use police officers to present the statements of victims and witnesses to convince the judge that there is enough evidence to justify a jury trial (this is called a "holding order"). Because the threshold required to get a "holding order" is low, the vast majority of those charged with a crime are sent over for a jury trial.

Understandably, the preliminary hearing can be terribly frustrating for a person who wants to aggressively "fight" his or her case now, rather than waiting until a jury trial. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, nor even wise. However, it is always important to remember that delay in a fight does not mean defeat. An effective and thorough legal defense takes time to prepare, and for which it is always worth waiting.

What happens after the preliminary hearing?

Answer: If the court issues a "holding order", in most cases, the person will be immediately arraigned on what is called an Information - this is just a fancy word for the charging document (i.e. the document that lists those specific crimes for which you are being charged). If the person is not immediately arraigned, he or she will be required to come back to court within fifteen days to be arraigned on an Information that the district attorney will prepare and file with the court. Once the person has been arraigned on an Information, the case is set for a jury trial. Generally speaking, the jury trial must start no later than 60 days from the date of the new arraignment, although felony cases frequently require more time within which to prepare for a jury trial so that the defense can conduct a complete, thorough, and independent investigation, including interviewing witnesses, consulting with expert witnesses, if any, and sifting through all of the physical evidence the district attorney intends to present at the jury trial.

Where legally and ethically permissible, the assigned attorney may make various pre-trial motions in order to get the case dismissed on legal grounds, such as a motion to get certain evidence thrown out of court because the police acted improperly when seizing it, or a motion to dismiss because the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing was not sufficient enough to justify a "holding order". The assigned attorney might also file motions to force the district attorney to disclose other pieces of evidence which could prove that the client is not guilty of the charge.

While the case is ongoing, the person charged may decide that he or she does not want to go to trial, but instead wants to settle the case. Just as often, the district attorney might offer the person a case settlement, referred to as a "plea bargain", to plead guilty to a less serious charge or agree to ask for reduced jail time at sentencing.

Settlement may occur at any time, from the initial arraignment up to, and even during, trial. Case settlement usually involves the person pleading "guilty" or "no contest" for an agreed sentence, or to an agreed-upon charge.

Another kind of "settlement" may be possible in certain felony cases involving non-violent drug offenses. Individuals who have been charged with first-time drug offenses, as well as person's who suffer from the disease of drug addiction may be eligible to attend classes or other rehabilitation programs. If they successfully complete all required programs, they can have their case dismissed in a process which is known as "Deferred Entry of Judgment" - commonly referred to as DEJ or drug diversion. Still others who commit non-violent drug possession offenses may be eligible for sentencing according to the provisions of Proposition 36, which generally favors long-term drug treatment as an alternative to jail. However, DEJ is available only upon a plea of "guilty", whereas Proposition 36 sentencing is available upon conviction - whether the person pled guilty or was found guilty after a jury trial.

What is a jury trial?

Answer: Although an adult has the right to a trial by jury, juveniles do not. A jury trial is where 12 jurors, collectively called the "trier of fact", listen to testimony and look at physical evidence presented by both the district attorney and the defense, and then decide what is true what is not true. The judge's job during a jury trial is to make sure that everyone follows the law.

At a jury trial, the district attorney's job is to convince the jury that the person charged committed the crime with which he or she is charged "beyond a reasonable doubt". All 12 jurors must agree that the person is guilty. If the jury cannot agree, the jury is hung, and a "mistrial" will be declared by the court. This could mean that the case may be tried again before a different jury, or the district attorney or the court may dismiss the case, or a case settlement may be agreed upon by the district attorney and the defense.

What if I don't want a jury trial, can the judge hear my case?

Answer: Maybe. A person can tell the court that he or she wants a court trial, also sometimes called a "bench trial", however, if the district attorney objects, a jury trial will be required. A court or bench trial simply means that the judge acts in the place of a jury as the "trier of fact". Although some people think that it's unfair that the district attorney can, in essence, veto a request for a court or bench trial, there are important constitutional principles involved. The California Constitution guarantees the right to a jury trial to ALL parties. It would be unfair to deny the district attorney a right to a jury trial if he or she felt it was in the best interests of the People of the State of California.

Why does a complaint always state, "The People of the State of California?"

Answer: The law says that all actions prosecuted by the district attorney are done in the name of the People of the State of California. It is irrelevant whether all the people agree or disagree on each and every case with what the district attorney charges. The fact is, the district attorney represents the "People" as a whole and acts in the People's best interests in fulfilling his or her constitutional duties.

If I am found guilty at trial, can I appeal?

Answer: Yes. Any person who is convicted after a trial has the right to appeal that conviction. This process is started when, at your request, the trial attorney files with the court a notice of appeal. Usually, an attorney who specializes in appeals will be appointed by the Court to represent the person on appeal.

If I am charged with a criminal offense, why do they call me a "defendant?"

Answer: The People are called the plaintiff, and anyone opposing a plaintiff is called a defendant. In civil cases, the parties are known as Petitioner and Respondent. These legal terms have been used since the early Greek and Roman judicial systems.

What happens when someone is charged with a misdemeanor?

Answer: [This is just a brief overview.] A misdemeanor is defined as a crime that is punishable by fine and/or imprisonment in a County jail for not longer than one year. Some misdemeanors are punishable by no more than six months in the county jail, and yet a few others limit jail time to ninety days. Most misdemeanor prosecutions start with an arrest. However, unlike a felony arrest, most persons charged with misdemeanors are detained only for a short time before they are released by the police after signing a promise to appear in court (similar to a traffic ticket). Those not issued a promise to appear by the police are usually later released by the jail using the same procedure: a written promise to appear, often called an own recognizance, or "O.R." release.

A report alleging unlawful conduct is prepared by the police officer and submitted to the district attorney who determines what, if any, charge, should be filed. Occasionally, instead of filing a misdemeanor charge, the district attorney may choose to file a complaint alleging an infraction. A persons accused of an infraction cannot be sentenced to jail, and is subject to a fine only.

Any person who has been arrested and then released from custody on a written promise to appear must appear in court on that date, at that specific time! A failure to appear can, and usually will result in a new criminal charge (called a failure to appear), as well as a have a warrant of arrest issued for their IMMEDIATE arrest. Unfortunately, it is NOT an excuse to miss court, or be late for court because of work, day care issues, oversleeping, school, having a sick child, etc.

It is not uncommon for a person to be arrested on a misdemeanor charge, only to appear in court and find out that no charges have been filed – yet: In some instances, charges will never be filed because the district attorney believes that there is insufficient evidence to prove a charge beyond a reasonable doubt. In other instances, charges are still being evaluated, and, as such, the person may be asked to voluntarily return to court on a later date (usually in thirty days). If the person agrees to this, he or she will remain free from custody on the written promise to appear. If the person doesn't voluntarily agree to this, he or she will be released by the Court, however, if the district attorney decides later to file a charge, one of two things will occur: the person will be sent a surrender letter to turn himself or herself into the jail for booking and release, or a warrant of arrest will be issued for the person's arrest.

If a misdemeanor case has been filed by the district attorney, the first step in the process is the arraignment – this is the step in the process where you can ask for an attorney.

CAUTION: There are a lot of cases heard in the misdemeanor courts every week. Arraignment proceedings move very fast. A person should NEVER be scared or intimidated to ask the court to appoint the Public Defender Office to talk to an attorney BEFORE a decision is made on whether or not it is best to accept the district attorney's offer and plead guilty or no contest. If the person wants to accept the district attorney's offer, great; enter a plea and in a short while the case will be done. However, a prudent person is a cautious person – because a criminal record can have unintended and unknown consequences, before entering any type of plea in a criminal case, a person is always better served in consulting, at a minimum, with an attorney first.

How do I get an attorney for my misdemeanor case?

Answer: Respectfully ask the Court to appoint the Public Defender. Remember, if the person can afford to hire an attorney at his or her own expense (and the Court will make this inquiry), he or she must actually do it and arrange to have that attorney appear in court. However, if the person is not financially able to hire a private attorney, don't hesitate in asking for a Public Defender.

Why should I talk to an attorney first?

Answer: The criminal justice system is very complex. There are numerous pit falls that can come back to haunt even the most intelligent person who is not trained in or who does not understand the legal system. This is what the attorney is trained to do. He or she has many years of schooling and courtroom experience to spot critical issues in a case, identify possible defenses, explain weaknesses in the evidence, determine whether or not the police may have violated the constitution, and provide sound advice about the future consequences of entering a plea. Use this expertise to guide your decisions.

The ultimate decision about what to do with a case rests squarely in the lap of the person charged with a criminal offense. Although the attorney will determine what legal strategies will be used, the person charged, and only the person charged can determine whether or not he or she will enter a plea of guilty or no contest.

What is a settlement conference?

Answer: This is much like a plea disposition meeting. It is a chance for the attorneys to get together with a judge, and a probation officer for a felony charge, to determine if some type of settlement can be reached without going to a jury trial. By this time, more detailed information about the case has been developed by the attorneys (usually through independent investigation) and a more in-depth, detailed conversation will occur about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the case. In many cases, the judge will give a neutral opinion about the strength or weakness of the case which assists the attorneys in determining the pro's and con's about actually going to trial.

What is a pre-trial hearing?

Answer: In a misdemeanor charge, this is much like a plea disposition meeting held before a settlement conference. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether or not the case can be settled without going to trial. Usually, more information about the case has been developed by the attorneys and a more in-depth, detailed conversation can occur related to the strength or weakness of witnesses and potential evidence.

What is an arraignment?

Answer: An arraignment is the first court appearance made on a criminal complaint. A traffic ticket, misdemeanor complaint, felony complaint, felony information and felony indictment are all complaints upon which an arraignment must be held. The purpose of an arraignment is to tell the person about his or her constitutional rights, including the right to be represented by an attorney and, in most cases, by the Public Defender if you cannot afford to hire an attorney using private funds, and to explain the charges that have been filed. The court cannot proceed against a person until that person has been legally arraigned.

An arraignment for a felony charge is different from a misdemeanor and a traffic charge. If you are charged with a felony, the court will strongly advise you to seek the assistance of an attorney (self-representation, although admirable, and clearly constitutional, is not advisable – the person would be going head-to-head with an experienced attorney from the District Attorney's Office who, most probably, knows and understands the law much better than the person being charged with a crime). Once an attorney is present, that attorney will take necessary steps to move the case along and protect the person's constitutional and statutory rights.

If the person is charged with a misdemeanor, the court, after explaining what the charge is, will usually have the district attorney announce an offer to settle the case. If the person wants to accept the offer the court will take a plea and the case will be finished. However, if the person doesn't understand the proceedings or the offer, or simply wants to discuss the case with an attorney, the person MUST ask the court for an attorney – at this point, if you can't afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint the Public Defender Office. If there is any doubt in your mind about whether or not you should, at a minimum, consult with an attorney from the Public Defender Officer, ALWAYS weigh in on the side of caution – talk to an attorney!

If the person is charged with an infraction only (e.g. a traffic ticket), and the person wants to talk to an attorney, unfortunately, he or she must actually hire an attorney at his or her own expense. The Public Defender cannot, as a matter of law, represent or consult with a person charged only with an infraction.

At the arraignment, the attorney will enter a plea (sometimes, if a case is particularly complex or unusual, a plea will initially be withheld in order to give the Public Defender Office sufficient time to gather more information about the charge; usually, however, a "not guilty" plea is entered), if the person is in custody, an attempt will be made to get that person released or, at a minimum, to have his or her bail reduced, and future court dates will be set (these dates include such things as a plea disposition meeting, preliminary hearing [for felony complaints only], settlement conference, etc.

How do I find out if there is a bench warrant for my arrest out of Shasta County?

Answer: Contact the public counter at the Shasta County Superior Court. That telephone number is: (530) 245-6789. If you discover that such a warrant exists, ask the court what steps are required of you to clear the warrant from the system and take care of the case.

Will the Public Defender represent me if I am a resident of another state?

Answer: Yes. If you are charged with an offense that is filed in a court within the County of Shasta, and you are unable to afford to hire an attorney, the Public Defender Office is available to represent you, regardless of the state where you actually reside.

Will the Public Defender Office represent me if I am a citizen of another country?

Answer: Yes. The constitutional right to be represented by an attorney applies to any natural person located in the United States or any of its territories.

My English is limited, so how can I get an interpreter to assist me or my limited English speaking witnesses?

Answer: When necessary, the Public Defender Office will make arrangements to obtain the assistance of an interpreter. There is no charge to the client or any witness for interpreter assistance. It is critical that you inform your assigned attorney if you don't understand the legal proceedings because you primary language is other than English and you need an interpreter. Often people may think they can understand enough English to "get by". Unfortunately, sometimes in court there might be special meanings attached to the words that are used which may make a critical difference in the handling of a particular case. Further, even for the most ardent English speaker, court proceedings can be confusing; thus, primarily speaking or understanding English as a 'second-language' may make court proceedings particular difficult or onerous for the person possessing limited "English" proficiency. If there is any doubt about your ability to understand everything that is being said in court to you or about you, it is far safer to use the services of an interpreter in your primary language.

I've heard a lot about Proposition 36, what is it?

Answer: Proposition 36, or Prop. 36, is a voter approved initiative. The entire theme behind Prop. 36 is to therapeutically treat those who have a drug addiction rather than fill-up our jails and prisons. Thus, Prop. 36 is a drug treatment alternative to jail or prison.

Who is eligible for drug treatment within the criminal justice system under Proposition 36?

Answer: This may be a simple question, but, unfortunately, it results in a very complicated answer. The easiest answer is that most of those persons arrested for drug related offenses may be eligible for Prop. 36 treatment. However, there are so many variables to the answer that it would be impossible to quickly answer this question here. Nevertheless, any person appointed to the Public Defender Office who potentially qualifies for Prop. 36 treatment is so advised. The assigned attorney to the client will carefully explain all of the requirements for Prop. 36. And, if Prop. 36 is an available alternative, the attorney will explain the benefits that attach to the successful completion of Prop. 36 treatment.

What happens when someone under the age of 18 is charged with a crime?

Answer: A juvenile (i.e., a person under the age of 18 years) who is charged with committing a crime, with habitual truancy, or with incorrigibility, comes within the jurisdiction of the juvenile delinquency court. After a juvenile is arrested, he or she is usually released to a parent, but occasionally the allegation is so serious that the juvenile is detained until he or she first appears in the juvenile court, which usually occurs within 48 to 72 hours.

For the most part, juvenile court proceedings are confidential and are not open to the general public. However, for any exceptions, it is best to ask a probation officer assigned to the juvenile court, or an attorney who practices in the juvenile court. Juvenile court proceedings are different than adult court, including the special legal terms that are used.

Many juveniles who are arrested never go to juvenile court but are handled informally by the probation department. These proceedings are known as 654.2.

I know my attorney can't repeat anything I say to him/her in confidence, but how can I be sure that what I say to a Public Defender Investigator or paralegal will be kept confidential?

Answer: The attorney-client privilege concerns all confidential communications between attorney and client, as well as any person hired or professionally consulted by the attorney. Thus, investigators, experts, and others necessary to competently represent the client are covered by the attorney-client privilege. Disclosure is not an option; the privilege is sacrosanct. But, the privilege can be pierced if the client fails to keep it confidential. Remember the old saying, "Loose lips sink ships".

Many clients don't initially understand why his or her girlfriend or boyfriend cannot sit in on a conversation with an appointed attorney. This is not permitted by the attorney in order to preserve the attorney-client privilege. Likewise, nothing about the conversation can be repeated to a third person (i.e., a person who is not critical to the case) that was discussed between the person and the attorney without waiving the attorney-client privilege.

The easiest way to envision this is to think about a priest. What you tell a priest in confession is, literally, between you and that priest. The same theory holds true for an attorney.

I've been convicted of a felony, can I still vote?

Answer: It depends.  If you are in state prison or are currently on active parole, you CANNOT vote or register to vote until your parole has been discharged.  If you are in the county jail (or you are participating in any type of work program) or performing community service as a condition of your felony probation (formal or informal), you ARE permitted to both register to vote and vote in any election. 

Can I modify the terms and conditions of my probation?

Answer:  Yes; modification includes early termination. The ability to modify your probation rests solely within the discretion of the Court.  Any time after the imposition of probation, you may petition the Court to modify any existing term of that probation (formal or informal). In your petition, you must prove to the Court that "good cause" exists to modify a probationary term. Good cause means more than simply being good. You must show the Court why it should modify or terminate a condition of probation.  In some cases involving minor misdemeanor convictions, after you have paid all of your fines and fees in full, and after having served a portion of your probation in good standing (e.g. no probation violations), the Court, upon application, may grant a request to terminate your misdemeanor term of probation. The Court examines each individual separately to determine whether or not to modify a condition of probation, or to terminate probation early. If you have any questions about whether you should attempt to have your probation modified, it is always best to talk to an attorney. 

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