Are Public Defenders attorneys?

A: Public Defenders are lawyers who practice criminal law only. This means that they do not practice family law. All have undergraduate degrees and all have graduate degrees in law. With the exception of a few legal interns who are training in county court, all assistant public defenders have passed the rigorous requirements of the Florida Bar Association to practice law in this state.

How do I get a Public Defender?

A: Only the court can Appoint you to a Public Defender. You should make your request at your next court hearing.

Is a Public Defender free?

A: No. Anyone who files an application for representation by the Office of the Public Defender will be charged the $ 50.00 application fee regardless of the outcome of the appointment to the office or not. The only time the $ 50.00 application fee is not enforced is if the appointment to the Public Defender is Declined by the person filling out the application. Furthermore, if you enter a plea or are Convicted at trial, the court can enter an order Requiring payment of Public Defender's Fees and Costs ranging from $ 200.00 in County Court to $ 550.00 in Circuit Court.The Public Defender's Fees and Costs will not be ordered if your case is dismissed or you are acquitted.

What is the $ 50 fee?

A: The $ 50 application fee was created by the legislature. The fee applies whether or not you actually are appointed to a Public Defender. If you do not have the money, you can not be denied a Public Defender.

What is an arraignment?

A: At a defendant's first appearance, the court will schedule an arraignment date. The purpose of the arraignment is to have formal charges brought against the accused by the State and allow further scheduling of plea negotiation and sentencing dates on the court's calendar. If formal charges have not been filed by the arraignment date, the State may request a continuance and a new arraignment date will be scheduled. The arraignment is not a trial and is not a time when evidence can be presented. If the Public Defender has not been appointed prior to the arraignment date the accused MUST ATTEND THE ARRAIGNMENT. At that time the judge will determine if the accused qualifies or not for the services of the Public Defender.

What is a pre-trial hearing?

A: A pre-trial is the court proceeding In which a decision is made to either Set a trial date or enter a plea of guilty or no contest. You generally must attend a pre-trial hearing unless your Public Defender has told you not to go.

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