- What is a Public Defender?
- What kind of cases do the Public Defender Office handle?
- What will it cost to be represented by the Public Defender Office?
- Is a Deputy Public Defender a lawyer?
- If I am arrested, do I have to talk to the police?
- Do I have to consent to a search when asked by the police?
- Can I get a conviction removed from my adult record?
- How do I apply for employment with the Shasta County Public Defender Office?
- How do I get a get a Deputy Public Defender to represent me?
- Can I get legal advice from a Deputy Public Defender before he or she is appointed?
- I forgot the name of my Deputy Public Defender. How can I find out who is representing me?
- I forgot my next court date. How do I find out when I'm supposed to appear?
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?
- Are all court "appointed attorneys" employees of the Public Defender Office?
- What happens when someone is charged with a felony?
- What is a plea disposition meeting?
- What is a preliminary hearing?
- What happens after the preliminary hearing?
- What is a jury trial?
- What if I don't want a jury trial, can the judge hear my case?
- Why does a complaint always state, "The People of the State of California?"
- If I am found guilty at trial, can I appeal?
- If I am charged with a criminal offense, why do they call me a "defendant?"
- What happens when someone is charged with a misdemeanor?
- How do I get an attorney for my misdemeanor case?
- Why should I talk to an attorney first?
- What is a settlement conference?
- What is a pre-trial hearing?
- What is an arraignment?
- How do I find out if there is a bench warrant for my arrest out of Shasta County?
- Will the Public Defender represent me if I am a resident of another state?
- Will the Public Defender Office represent me if I am a citizen of another country?
- My English is limited, so how can I get an interpreter to assist me or my limited English speaking witnesses?
- I've heard a lot about Proposition 36, what is it?
- Who is eligible for drug treatment within the criminal justice system under Proposition 36?
- What happens when someone under the age of 18 is charged with a crime?
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?
- I've been convicted of a felony, can I still vote?
- Can I modify the terms and conditions of my probation?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.