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's 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 who are unable, because of a financial difficulty, to hire a private attorney.

What kind of cases does the Public Defender's Office handle?

Answer: The Public Defender's Office represents adults and juveniles charged with misdemeanor and felony criminal conduct, as well as any alleged violation of the terms and conditions of supervision. The Public Defender's Office cannot legally represent anyone accused solely of an infraction (i.e., most traffic violations, many municipal code violations, or any other violation that is not punishable in a jail). The Public Defender's Office also represents anyone subjected to civil proceedings seeking to terminate his or her parental rights under the Family Code, or under the Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Act, Mentally Disordered Offender (MDO) Act, Latterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act, as well as anyone subject to an involuntary mental health commitment or commitment extension.

What will it cost to be represented by the Public Defender's 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's Office 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 Defenders and Deputy Public Defenders are all lawyers licensed through the State Bar to practice law in the State of California.

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

Answer: No. The police rely upon your voluntary decision to talk to them--no one can be forced to talk to the police. However, if you voluntary decide to talk to the police, anything you say can and will be used against you in court. If you are arrested, it is highly recommended that you request to speak to a lawyer before answering any questions, and obtain advice from that lawyer before deciding to answer any questions. 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 constitutional right to privacy. In addition, once you give consent for the police to search, you have waived your constitutional and statutory rights to privacy, including the right against 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, 1203.4a, or 1203.41). And, if your prior conviction was for a crime classified as a felony wobbler (i.e., an offense that is punishable as either a felony or a misdemeanor), you may ask the court to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor (Penal Code §§ 16, 17, 18, 19, 19.2, 19.4, 19.6, 19.7). Finally, you may be eligible to seek a Governor's traditional pardon [Penal Code §§ 4800 - 4813], or obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR) (Penal Code §§ 4852.01 – 4852.21). Each of these post-conviction 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 be used against you.

How do I apply for employment with the Shasta County Public Defender's 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. Contact Shasta County Support Services for any web-based notification systems that you might be able to access to receive alerts about employment possibilities.

How do I get an attorney from the Public Defender's Office 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, you were given a date, time and place to appear in court for the first time. The first time 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 takes the bench). If you say no, the Court will appoint the Public Defender's Office. A Deputy Public Defender who handles arraignments will accept the appointment on behalf of the Office. However, the Deputy Public Defender who appears at your arraignment may not be the attorney assigned to represent you. Once your case is opened by the Public Defender's Office, a Deputy Public Defender will be assigned to represent you by an administrator from the Public Defender's Office.

Can I get legal advice from the Public Defender's Office before the Office is appointed to represent me?

Answer: No. As a matter of law, in most circumstances, attorneys from the Public Defender's Office cannot provide legal assistance or advice to any person not appointed by the Court. There are strong public policy reasons for not providing legal advice outside of the attorney-client relationship. After the Public Defender's Office has been appointed to represent you, an attorney from the Office will be more than happy to discuss the facts of your case, and any possible legal defenses. 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 to represent you. 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: Call the Public Defender's Office at (530) 245-7598, or visit the public access window at the Public Defender's Office at 1815 Yuba Street, Redding. Once you provide certain information to the Receptionist, he or she will be able to tell you which attorney has been assigned to your case. 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 to represent you. It takes approximately two (2) 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 next?

Answer: Call the Public Defender's Office at (530) 245-7598, or visit the public access window at the Public Defender's Office at 1815 Yuba Street, Redding. Once you provide certain information to the Receptionist, he or she will be able to tell you the information about your next court date, if the court has updated the computer (it usually takes two (2) court days from the date of your last appearance in court before the computer is updated). Please remember that it's extremely helpful to have your case number available when talking with someone at the Public Defender's 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: Call the Public Defender's Office at (530) 245-7598, or visit the public access window at the Public Defender's Office at 1815 Yuba Street, Redding. Once you provide certain information to the Receptionist, he or she will be able to tell you the information about your next court appearance, if the court has updated the computer (it usually takes two (2) court days from the date of your last appearance in court before the computer is updated). Please remember that it is extremely helpful to have your case number available when talking with someone at the Public Defender's 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's 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's Office to represent you. However, in some situations, an ethical "conflict" may arise that makes it impossible for the Public Defender's Office to represent you or take care of your legal needs. A good example of this might be where the Public Defender's Office is already representing another defendant in the same case. If the Court has appointed you to the Public Defender's Officer, but a "conflict" is later declared, the Court will be notified, and the Court will appoint an attorney from the Conflict Public Defender panel to represent you. The attorneys employed by the Conflict Public Defender panel are not employees of the Public Defender's Office, even though they are 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 a crime punishable by death or by imprisonment in a state prison, or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code. In most cases, a felony prosecution starts with an arrest. Written police reports are presented to the prosecutor who decides what charge, if any, will be filed, and whether the charge will be a felony, misdemeanor (which is a less serious crime punishable by no more than one year in county jail, among other penalties), or infraction.

Once the person is arrested for a felony, he or she is booked at an appropriate custody facility (e.g., juveniles are booked at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility, also called the JRF, while adults are booked at the county jail). For an adult, bail is set based on a predetermined schedule adopted by the Superior Court. Juveniles cannot, as a matter of law, have bail set--they are either released to a parent or guardian, or they are detained until their first appearance in the juvenile court.

An adult will be released from custody if he or she posts bail. Bail can be posted in one of several ways: cash, bail bond, or real property (pledged with court permission). Any questions about how the bail bond process works should be sought from a licensed bail bondsman. In some cases, the Court may order a person released on his or her 'own recognizance' (a fancy way of saying, "on a written promise to appear"), or on supervised own recognizance (SOR), a special program operated by the Probation Department which uses the latest GPS technology to help monitor a defendant while he or she is released to the community. In even rarer cases, a person may be released from custody if the police do not believe that sufficient evidence supports continued detention. This is called a PC § 849(b) release. If you are released under this last 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 a criminal investigation and identify a suspect. Rather than arrest the suspect, the police may, instead, present their investigation to the prosecutor, who may file charges with the Court. If this procedure is used, the Court will issue an arrest warrant. The prosecutor may also present evidence of a crime to the Grand Jury, which has the ultimate authority to return an indictment (called a "True Bill") charging a person with a crime.

Next comes the arraignment, followed by a plea disposition (PD), and preliminary hearing (PX).

What is a plea disposition (PD)?

Answer: Prior to the scheduled preliminary hearing (PX) in a felony case, the defendant (a person charged with a crime) will be required to appear in court for a 'plea disposition,' known as 'PD' in many legal documents. The PD is the where your assigned attorney and the prosecutor meet with a judge (in his or her chambers--a fancy way of saying office), along with a Probation Officer (in a felony case), to discuss the criminal charge(s) to see if a plea bargain can be reached by everyone involved. Although the defendant is sitting in court during these "chamber" discussions, he or she will not actually be present in the Judge's chambers. If the case does not resolve at the PD, the case will continue to the preliminary hearing, known as 'PX' in many legal documents.

What is a preliminary hearing (PX)?

Answer: A preliminary hearing (PX) is a court proceeding where the prosecutor presents evidence to convince a judge that there is reasonable cause to believe a felony crime has been committed, and the person charged is the one who committed it. The PX is not heard by a jury; and, at this point in the criminal process, the prosecutor does not have to prove the commission of a crime 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' The standard of proof at a PX is a 'strong suspicion.' The primary purpose of the PX is to weed out charges that cannot be supported by competent evidence. At a PX, the prosecutor may use police officers to present the statements of victims and witnesses to convince the judge that there is enough evidence to justify a trial (this is called a "holding order"). Because the threshold required to get a "holding order" is low, the vast majority of defendants charged with a felony crime are bound over for a jury trial.

Understandably, the PX can be terribly frustrating for a defendant who wants to aggressively "fight" his or her charge(s) now, rather than wait until a trial. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, nor even wise. However, it is always important to remember that delaying a vigorous defense does not mean defeat. An effective and thorough legal defense takes time to prepare, and is always worth the wait.

What happens after the preliminary hearing (PX)?

Answer: If the court issues a "holding order," in most cases, the defendant 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 defendant is not immediately arraigned, he or she will be required to come back to court within fifteen (15) days to be arraigned on an Information that the prosecutor must prepare and file with the court.

Once the defendant is arraigned on an Information, the case is set for trial. Generally speaking, the trial must start no later than sixty (60) days from the date of the arraignment on the Information, although felony cases frequently require more time so that the assigned Deputy Public Defender can properly prepare for trial, including receipt of a thorough investigation conducted by the Investigation Unit, if an investigation is warranted, consulting with an expert witness, if necessary, and sifting through all of the physical evidence the prosecutor may want to present at trial.

Where legally and ethically permissible, the assigned attorney may make various pre-trial motions in order to get the case dismissed, such as a motion to have certain evidence thrown out of court (or suppressed) because the police acted improperly when seizing it, or a motion to dismiss because the evidence presented at the PX was insufficient to support the "holding order." The assigned attorney might also file motions to force the prosecutor to disclose other items of evidence that may be helpful in proving the defendant is not guilty of the charged crime(s).

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

Settlement of a criminal case may occur at any time, from arraignment up to, and even during, trial. Case settlement usually involves the defendant pleading "guilty" or "no contest" for an agreed sentence, or to a particular charge, with the dismissal of another charge(s).

Another kind of "settlement" may be possible in cases involving a first-time non-violent drug offense. A defendant charged with a first-time drug offense (only certain drug crimes are eligible) can seek to be referred to a drug education program called "Deferred Entry of Judgment--DEJ," or often called drug diversion; this is not a drug rehabilitation program where treatment is core concern. If a defendant successfully completes all required drug education classes, he or she can have the criminal case dismissed. To participate in a DEJ program, a defendant must plead "guilty" to the charge. If a DEJ case is ultimately dismissed, the defendant may also petition the Court to have his or her criminal drug case SEALED (Penal Code §851.90), which is an order to remove or erase from public view or exposure any record related to the arrest and court proceedings.

Defendants not eligible for DEJ or drug diversion based on one or more prior drug convictions may, nevertheless, be eligible for drug treatment for non-violent drug possession offenses. This rehabilitation program is called Proposition 36 (P36) which favors long-term drug treatment as an alternative to jail. P36 is a drug rehabilitation program, not a drug education program. You may plead "no contest" to accept P36, or you may choose P36 treatment after a trial.

What is a jury trial?

Answer: Although an adult has the right to trial by jury of his or her peers, juveniles do not have that same right. A jury trial consists of twelve (12) jurors, collectively called the "trier of fact," who listen to testimony and look at physical evidence presented by both the attorneys, 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 prosecutor's job is to convince the jury that the defendant committed the crime with which he or she is charged "beyond a reasonable doubt." All 12 jurors must agree that the defendant is guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." If the jury cannot agree on a verdict, it is declared hung, and a "mistrial" will be declared by the Court. This could mean that the criminal case may be tried again before a different jury, or the prosecutor, or the court may dismiss the case without retrial, or a case may ultimately settle if all of the parties (the prosecutor, defense attorney, and defendant) agree, which must be approved by the Court.

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

Answer: Maybe. A defendant can tell the court that he or she wants a court trial, also called a "bench trial," however, if the prosecutor 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 believe that it's unfair that the prosecutor can, in essence, 'veto' a defendant's 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 prosecutor 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 or Information always state "The People of the State of California?"

Answer: The law says that all criminal actions are brought in the name of the "People of the State of California." It is irrelevant (or doesn't matter) whether all the people agree or disagree on each and every criminal case filed by a prosecutor. The fact is, the prosecutor represents the collective body, i.e., the "People" as a whole, and acts as the People's representative to ensure that the community's best interests are protected.

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 the conviction. This process is started when, at your request, the defense attorney files a notice of appeal with the trial court. Usually, an attorney who specializes in appeals will be appointed by the Appellate Court to represent the defendant 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 may sometimes be known as "Petitioner" and "Respondent," or "Plaintiff" and "Defendant," depending on the type or character of the civil proceedings. These legal terms have been used since the early Greek and Roman judicial systems.

What happens when someone is charged with a misdemeanor crime?

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 (1) year.** Some misdemeanors are punishable by no more than six (6) months in the county jail, and yet a few others limit jail time to no more than ninety (90) days. Most misdemeanor cases start with an arrest. However, unlike a felony arrest, most persons arrested for a misdemeanor are detained for a short period of time before they are released after signing a written promise to appear in court (similar to a traffic ticket). Those persons not released on a written promise to appear are usually released by the jail after the booking process has been completed using the same general release procedure: a written promise to appear, called an own recognizance ("O.R.") release.

A report alleging criminal conduct is prepared by a law enforcement agency and submitted to the prosecutor who determines what, if any, criminal charge, will be filed. Occasionally, instead of filing a misdemeanor criminal charge, the prosecutor may choose to file a complaint alleging an infraction. A person 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 the date and time listed on the citation or O.R. form. Failing to appear in court can, and usually will, result in a new criminal charge (called a failure to appear) being filed, whereafter an arrest warrant will be issued by the Court. 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 yet been filed by the prosecutor. In these circumstances, criminal charges may never be filed because the prosecutor believes that there is insufficient evidence to prove a crime occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. In other instances, criminal charges are still being evaluated by the prosecutor, and, as such, the person may be asked to voluntarily return to court on a later date (usually somewhere around thirty (30) days). If the person agrees to voluntarily return to Court, he or she will remain free from custody on the written promise to appear or O.R. If the person doesn't voluntarily agree to return to Court, he or she will be released by the Court, however, if the prosecutor later decides to file a criminal charge, one of two things will occur: (1) the person will be sent a surrender letter to turn himself or herself into the jail for booking and release, or (2) an arrest warrant will be issued by the Court.

If a misdemeanor case has been filed by the prosecutor, the first step in the process is the arraignment – this is where you may 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's Office so that you can speak to the Deputy Public Defender present in court handling the arraignment calendar BEFORE you make a decision on whether or not it is in your best interest to accept the prosecutor's settlement offer. If the defendant wants to accept the prosecutor's offer, great: enter a plea in open court and, in a short while, the case will be done. However, a prudent defendant 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 defendant is always better served in consulting, at a minimum, with an attorney first.

** Effective January 1, 2015, a sentence of one (1) year in the county jail requires that one serve only 364 days, not 365 days. This change in the definition of what constitutes a "year" for confinement purposes was adopted by the California Legislature to shield some documented immigrants from discretionary deportation, exclusion from the United States, or denial of citizenship. See Penal Code §18.5.

How do I get an attorney for a misdemeanor case?

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

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 sophisticated defendant who is not trained in or who does not understand the complexities of our legal system. This is what an attorney is trained to do. He or she has many years of schooling and courtroom experience to spot critical issues in a criminal 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 defendant. Although the defense attorney will determine what legal strategies to use, the defendant, and only the defendant can determine whether or not to have a trial, or whether he or she will accept a plea deal and enter a plea of guilty or no contest.

What is a settlement conference?

Answer: This is much like a plea disposition (PD). 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 (plea bargain) can be reached without going to trial. By this time, more detailed information about the criminal case has been developed by the attorneys (usually through independent investigations) 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 or settling the criminal case.

What is a pre-trial hearing?

Answer: In a misdemeanor case, this is much like a plea disposition 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 a defendant makes on a criminal complaint. A traffic ticket, misdemeanor complaint, felony complaint, felony information and felony indictment are all types of complaints upon which an arraignment must be held. The purpose of an arraignment is to inform the defendant about the charges filed against him or her, and to explain his or her constitutional rights, including the right to be represented by an attorney. The court cannot proceed against the defendant until he or she has been legally arraigned.

An arraignment for a felony charge is handled a little differently from a misdemeanor case, or even a traffic citation. If the defendant is charged with a felony, the court will strongly advise him or her to seek the assistance of an attorney (self-representation, although admirable, and clearly constitutional, is not advisable – the defendant would be going head-to-head with an experienced prosecutor who, most probably, knows and understands the law much better than the defendant) before making any decisions about the case. Once an attorney is present in court, he or she will take necessary steps to move the case along while protecting the defendant's constitutional and statutory rights.

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

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

At the arraignment, the defendant will be required to, or, if an attorney has been appointed, the attorney, will enter a plea (sometimes, if a case is particularly complex or unusual, a plea will initially be withheld by an attorney in order to provide sufficient time to gather more information about the charge; usually, however, a "not guilty" plea is entered) to the complaint. If the defendant is in custody, an attempt will be made to get him or her released or, at a minimum, to have his or her bail reduced. At this point, the Court will set future appearance dates until the criminal case is finally concluded (these future dates include such things as a plea disposition, preliminary hearing [for felony complaints only], settlement conference, etc.).

How do I find out if a bench warrant has been issued for my arrest out of Shasta County?

Answer: Contact the Shasta County Superior Court at (530) 245-6789. If you discover that a warrant exists, ask the court what steps are required of you to clear the warrant from the system and get the criminal case heard by a judge.

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

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

Will the Public Defender 's 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, regardless of nationality.

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

Answer: When necessary, the Public Defender's Office will make arrangements to obtain the assistance of an interpreter to conduct non-court business. There is no charge to the defendant or a witness for interpreter assistance. It is critical that you inform your assigned attorney if you don't understand the legal proceedings because your primary language is other than English. Often, people think they can understand enough English to "get by." Unfortunately, in court, there might be special meanings attached to the different legal words or phrases commonly used which may make it particularly difficult for a limited English speaker to fully understand what's happening. Further, even for the most ardent English speaker, court proceedings can be confusing; thus, a defendant or witness who uses English as a 'second-language' may find the court proceedings particularly difficult or onerous to understand. If there is any doubt about an ability to fully and fairly understand everything is being said in court to you or about you, it is far safer to use the services of a certified court interpreter in your primary language.

I've heard a lot about Proposition 36 (P36), what is it?

Answer: Proposition 36, or P36, is a voter-approved initiative that puts an emphasis on drug rehabilitation, not incarceration. The entire purpose behind P36 is to therapeutically treat those who have a drug addiction rather than fill-up our jails and prisons. Thus, P36 is a drug treatment alternative to custody.

Who is eligible for P36 drug treatment within the criminal justice system?

Answer: This may be a simple question, but, unfortunately, it doesn't beget an easy answer. The easiest answer is that most of those persons arrested for drug related offenses may be eligible for P36 drug treatment. However, there are far too many legal variables to the question which makes a succinct or simple answer fairly difficult. Suffice it to say, any defendant appointed to the Public Defender's Office who qualifies for P36 drug treatment is so advised. The assigned attorney will carefully explain all of the eligibility requirements involved with a grant of P36, and, if P36 is an available alternative, the assigned attorney will further explain the benefits that attach to the successful completion of P36 drug treatment progam.

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, or who is habitually truant, or who is otherwise incorrigible, comes within the jurisdiction of the juvenile delinquency court. After a juvenile is arrested, he or she is usually released to a parent or guardian, but occasionally the criminal allegation is so serious that the juvenile will be detained in a juvenile facility until he or she first appears in the juvenile court, which must occurs within 48 to 72 hours of the arrest.

For the most part, juvenile court proceedings are confidential and are not open to the public. However, in limited circumstances the Juvenile Court Judge may open the courtroom to permit the public to attend the proceedings. Juvenile court proceedings are different than adult court, and include special legal terms not used elsewhere.

Many juveniles who are arrested never have to go to juvenile court because they are handled informally by the Probation Department. These proceedings are known as 654, referring to Welfare & Institutions Code Section 654.

I know my attorney can't repeat anything I say to him or 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 a 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 or family member cannot sit in on a conversation with his or her assigned 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 client and the assigned attorney without potentially 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 serving a sentence in a state prison, or are currently being supervised on parole or PRCS, you CANNOT vote or register to vote until your supervision period has been discharged. If you are being held in a county jail (or you are participating in any type of alternative custody, such as a work program or community service as a condition of felony probation (formal or informal), you ARE permitted to both register to vote and vote in any election.

If you are serving a sentence in the county jail pursuant to Penal Code Section 1170(h) (known as an AB 109 sentence) for a felony conviction, it remains unresolved whether or not you are eligible to register to vote and to vote while serving that sentence, or while being supervised by the Probation Department, called Mandatory Supervision, or a split sentence in AB 109. As we learn more, we will update this answer.

Can I modify the terms and conditions of my probation, parole, or mandatory supervision?

Answer: Yes; modification includes early termination. The ability to modify the terms and conditions of your probation, parole, or mandatory supervision rests solely within the discretion of the Court. Any time after the imposition of probation, or while being supervised on parole or mandatory supervision, you may petition the Court to modify any existing terms of that supervision. In your petition, you must demonstrate to the Court that "good cause" exists to modify a supervisory term. Good cause means more than simply being good. You must convince the Court why it should modify a condition of, or terminate supervision. In some cases involving minor misdemeanor convictions, after you have paid all of your fines and fees in full, and after having successfully completed a portion of your supervisory period, the Court, upon application, may grant a request to terminate your misdemeanor supervision.

If you have any questions about whether you should attempt to have any terms and conditions of your period of supervision modified, including the possibility of having the supervisory period terminated early, it is always best to talk to an attorney.