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Public Defender’s Duties

A Public Defender is a lawyer who is appointed by the court in criminal charges to represent persons unable to defend themselves for lack of finances. In Gideon v. Wainwright, (1963), the right to counsel —as per the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution — was held as a fundamental right. Below, Legal Experts answer questions related to legal rights to public defense and public defender duties.

Can I request for another public defender if the one representing me has not represented me properly?

The procedure for changing your public defender is to contact the public defender’s office and request to be assigned another public defender. However, you will have to prove that the public defender actions were such so as to make your request for replacement justifiable.

In case the public defender’s office refuses to assign another defender, you may request the judge to issue an order for a new public defender. If this too fails, you still have the option of appealing any guilty verdict under the grounds of "ineffective assistance of counsel" and request a new trial.

After I filed a motion for continuance, which the judge has not yet responded to, my public defender told me that she is filing a motion for withdrawal from representing me. Should I wait for the judge to respond or should I file another motion of continuance now that I need to find another public defender?

If your public defender withdraws representation at a time when you have filed a Motion for Continuance, you may file an Amended Motion to Continue. You may attach a copy of the attorney's Motion to Withdraw as an exhibit and request the judge that your Motion to Continue be reviewed in the light of these facts. Of course, you must first wait till your attorney files a Motion to Withdraw.

I missed attending court for a traffic case at the felony level for alleged evading arrest as my public defender did not advise me on the revised hearing dates. What protective measures can I pursue against the public defender?

You will need to immediately report to court and meet the judge to explain your situation. Since they did not make you sign a subpoena to appear on that day, you are in a favorable position. However, you will need to act immediately in order to make your position strong and possibly before the public defender reports you to the judge (though most likely they will only report that they forgot to get you the notice). By acting immediately, you will be able to impress upon the court that it was only a mistake and that you acted in a timely manner as soon as you found out about it.

Finally, it is your personal call as to whether you wish to continue using the services of the public defender.

If I am unable to afford an attorney or get a public defender as the case is less than two weeks old, will I have to defend the case myself? How do I file for a Motion of Continuance and who do I notify?

As a defendant, you have the legal right to representation by a Public Defender if you are unable to afford a private attorney. In your particular situation, since the case is less than two weeks old, you may file a request for a Public Defender along with your Motion for Continuance. In such cases, the court examines a person’s assets to determine whether or not he/she is capable of hiring the services of a private attorney.

The Motion for Continuance must be filed during the judge’s next “motion hour”, which is typically heard once every week. Contact the court clerk to find out when how far in advance you will need to file. On the day of the Motion, you may state your reasons for continuance.

You must send a copy of the Motion to the plaintiff’s attorney, who is usually the prosecutor. If the prosecutor agrees to your Motion, then you will only need to prepare an “agreed order for continuance” and submit it to the judge for approval.

Typically, Public Defenders are hired only for criminal cases. In civil cases, if the defendant is not able to afford a private attorney, he/she may seek help from Legal Aid or Legal Services. They represent both civil and criminal cases. Defendants may also contact the state bar to seek pro bono attorneys in their area. For more information on a Public Defender’s duties, Legal Experts are available to answer questions.

Ask a Lawyer

Tina
Tina, Lawyer
Category: General
Satisfied Customers: 8603
Experience:  JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
4460311
Type Your Legal Question Here...
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Tina
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JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
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Satisfied Customers: 8189
25 years of experience helping people like you.

Recent Public Defender Questions

  • duval county florida. 77 year old Mother stopped/arrested

    duval county florida. 77 year old Mother stopped/arrested for DUI in Atlantic Beach. First offense, no accidents or others involved.
    would like some legal advice for how to expeditiously get her out of jail in the morning and minimize impacts.
  • Which Law School would you recommend? We live north of Atlanta

    Which Law School would you recommend? We live north of Atlanta georgia. Should he concentrate on staying in the Marines and taking coarses in California near Pendleton or move back east and find a law school here
  • My daughter had been arrested on a possession charge. She

    My daughter had been arrested on a possession charge. She had a small amount of meth on her person, so there is no doubt that she is guilty of the possession charge. Here is where things get really hairy. She was released on her own recognizance and assigned a public defender. On April 17, She was arrested for DV assault charge and her arraignment was at 9:00, Friday April 18. She had an appointment with her attorney at 11:00 to go over everything on a 3.6 hearing she was having on Monday morning April 21st. I emailed him letting him know that I wasn't sure if she was going to be able to make their appointment at 11:00 or not. At 10:42, (he couldn't wait until 11:00), he sent me an email that said that he had already spoken to the prosecuting attorney and the clerk and let them know there would not be a hearing on Monday, and that he expected to get new dates set soon. When this all started, one of the first things the judge told her was to make sure and listen to everything her attorney tells her to do. None of us believed there was going to be a hearing, and none of us showed up for this hearing. Her father and I have either both, if at all possible, or at least one of us, gone to every single one of her hearings. None of us thought there was a hearing due to the email he sent. Here's the kicker: He had not spoken with the PA or the clerk, and there was a hearing. Her attorney did not go to court the next day and tell the PA what happened. He let it go and go. I kept asking him to let them know. He never did. Then my daughter was arrested because of felony bail jumping. She spent over 8 weeks in jail before my husband and I bailed her out. During this time, her attorney stepped down, and she received a new public defender out of the same office. I begged him to show the email to the judge or or the PA. He didn't do it, and we felt that it was to cover for his co-worker, so we hired an attorney and have spent a LOT of money to try to get things taken care of. The PA now knows about the email, but is using it as leverage to get her to accept a felony plea. If she accepts the plea, he will drop the felony bail jumping, which she doesn't even meet all of the criteria for because she did not knowingly miss a court hearing. HE TOLD HER there would not be a hearing.
    Now, my daughter has been clean since last April. It is very obvious when someone smokes meth. It's a very ugly drug, and I can tell you without hesitation that she has been clean since last April. She is working on changing her life. She just started a new, full time job yesterday. While she was on meth and in jail, she asked to take drug court. They did their evaluation and determined that she was not eligible for it. The guy who determined this has agreed to re-evaluate her, but after being clean for 71/2 months, I have my doubts that she will qualify for drug court this time either. Will that simply leave her with having to accept a felony plea? We can take it to trial, but she will lose on the possession part. Odds have it, she would not lose on the bail jumping part.
    We had made a counter offer, considering the mess up they made, that she has been clean, that she is on the right track, that she is working, etc., that instead of knocking someone who is doing so well down, to say, "good job, we are impressed", drop it to a gross misdemeanor, and do a whole lot of community service, allowing her to help other people get back on their feet and doing some good. The counter offer was refused. It is still drug court, or take a felony.
    My other question is, after all is said and done, can the county be sued for wrongful imprisonment? I know we can report him to the bar, but that, realistically, probably isn't going to do much if any good. She does a crime, and she has to take a felony for it. Is telling her there will not be a hearing when there is one, and then not making it right a crime? If she can sue for this, should she start the process right away in hopes that they will drop it to a misdemeanor, or wait until this is done and she already has a felony? And, if she can sue, do you know of attorneys that take on this sort of case?
    As I said, yes, she was originally in the wrong. I am not minimizing this, because it is not a pretty drug, but she had a VERY small amount on her. They illegally keep her in jail, costing us another $500.00 to bail her out because they just kept postponing dates and there was no end in sight, and nobody would let the PA or the judge know what happened. I tried to let the PA know, but they told me I couldn't talk to him. It was a conflict of interest, and her attorney needs to talk to him, but nobody at the office of assigned council would do that. It also cost her a booking fee in another court because she had to miss that date because she was in jail, so they put a warrant out on her.
    Please give me some advice on this nightmare. Thank you.
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