For more information, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has an excellent online article titled “ What To Do If You’re Stopped By Police,” which can be accessed at www.aclu.org/know-your-rights. (En Español) The ACLU website contains other articles which covers topics such as “Searches and Warrants,” “Stops and Arrests,” and “Prisoners’ Rights.” The articles are not a substitute for seeking qualified legal advice and the articles are intended to give a general overview of the topics covered.
Tirelessly, fearlessly, and with compassion! The primary responsibility of the El Dorado County Public Defender’s Office is to provide vigorous legal representation to all persons who have been accused of criminal misconduct but are currently unable to afford to hire private defense counsel. If appointed to represent you, the Public Defender’s only loyalty is to you, our client.
If you are in custody, usually within two court days of your arrest you will be brought to a local court for what is called “the arraignment.” At this court date, tell the judge that you want a public defender to represent you. Your case will be continued to the next available pretrial court date. Prior to your next court appearance, a public defender will meet with you to explain the charges against you, to learn any important facts of the case, and to describe the court process.
It is rarely a good idea to resolve cases on your own, as there are consequences to a plea of no contest or guilty that you may not realize at the time. When you appear out of custody at your arraignment in a misdemeanor case, the judge might advise you of the charges against you and may offer a resolution of your case. However, it is usually a good idea to first speak with a criminal defense lawyer before entering a plea because there may be defenses available that you don’t know about or there may be consequences to pleading guilty that could cause you problems in the future. Don’t feel pressured into resolving your case without a lawyer. Simply tell the judge that you would like to be appointed to be represented by the Public Defender’s Office
Ask to have a lawyer represent you. If you do not have the money to hire private counsel, ask to have the Public Defender’s Office present. We can appear with you. Before being questioned regarding a crime, the police must inform you that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Likewise, if the police want to place you in a lineup, you have the right to have an attorney present at the lineup. The Public Defender’s Office can provide an attorney to serve in these functions. A public defender who goes to the jail or to the station acts as your attorney in the same way as if you had retained the attorney to represent you. The attorney represents you, not the police.
Call our offices in either Placerville or South Lake Tahoe and the staff member will transfer your call to your attorney’s office. If you are in the Placerville jail, we DO accept collect calls. All public defenders have voice mail, so you can leave a message if your attorney is not in the office at the time you call. Any time you have to leave a message for your attorney, always remember to speak slowly and clearly. Leave your complete name, your case number if you know it, your next court date, a telephone number, and the best time for your attorney to contact you.
Call the Public Defender's Office where your case is pending. Provide the receptionist with your case number, or, if you can't remember the number, provide your full name and next court date. Ordinarily, that information will be enough to help our staff determine the name of your attorney.
There are two ways to find out quickly. First, if you have internet access, you can search by your name on the El Dorado County Superior Court’s website, which contains calendars for the next 90 days. The website is www.eldoradocourt.org. The specific link is http://www.eldoradocourt.org/calendar.aspx.
Second, you can call the Public Defender’s Office! If you don’t know your next court date, don’t put off calling to find out. If you miss a court date, the judge can issue a warrant for your arrest or take you into custody when you do show up. If that happens, a failure to appear can actually follow you into your next case, if you have one, and can affect whether you obtain a release from jail or whether you are eligible for certain programs. Warrants are bad and to be avoided!
You can search the El Dorado County Superior Court’s website, www.eldoradocourt.org, or you can call our office. Give your name and case number to the support person who answers the phone and our staff will be able to tell you the precise location of your particular court and give you directions on how to get there.
"Bail" is the amount of money that a defendant or someone on his/her behalf must pay in order for the defendant to be released from jail. It is intended to assure the court that the defendant will appear at his/her future court dates.
If you are released on an "O.R,” or “own recognizance,” you are being released on your personal promise to appear in the future without having to post bail. If you are released on an O.R., the judge may impose conditions of your release, such as Alcoholics Anonymous meeting attendance or a curfew.
Yes. Defendants who have been convicted after a misdemeanor or felony trial have the right to appeal their conviction. This process is started by the trial attorney who, upon request of the client, will file a notice of appeal in the trial. A lawyer who specializes in appeals will then be appointed to represent you in your appeal. These appellate lawyers are not employees of the Public Defender’s Office. However, your public defender will provide your appellate lawyer with all the information from your case, in order to assist you with your appeal.
Yes! The Office of the Public Defender will represent you in your criminal case, regardless of your citizenship status.
Yes, whenever necessary, your public defender will obtain the assistance of an interpreter. An interpreter will be made available for interviews, consultations, and court proceedings. We have Spanish-speaking staff members who can assist with Spanish-speaking client or witnesses. In court, an official court interpreter will be obtained for whichever language or dialect is needed for you to be able to clearly communicate and understand everything that is going on in your case.
Yes! The office has a staff of highly trained and experienced investigators. Their job is to track down any witnesses and obtain any evidence that might prove a client's innocence or demonstrate a weakness in the prosecutor's case. Not infrequently, it is due to the work by a dedicated Public Defender investigator that an innocent client is released from custody. Other times, the investigator’s work helps to obtain lighter sentences for clients.
The attorney-client privilege concerns the confidential communication between lawyer and client which cannot be disclosed to anyone without the consent of the client. This same privilege extends to ALL employees of the Public Defender's Office, including investigators.
It depends. If you have a misdemeanor conviction, you can still vote. A misdemeanor does not affect your right to vote. If you have a felony conviction, so long as you are not currently in prison or on parole or post-release community supervision, you can vote. You can vote if you are on felony probation. If you are in prison, on parole, or on any post-release community supervision, once you complete your sentence, parole, or supervision, your voting rights are automatically restored. However, you still need to fill out a voter registration card in order to be able to vote. You have to register to vote at least 15 days before Election Day.