Frequently Asked Questions

If you are arrested, you should request to speak to a lawyer and obtain advice from a lawyer before answering police questions.
Not being properly advised of your constitutional rights may have consequences that will impact the ultimate outcome of your case, but the mere fact that you were not properly advised does not mean your case is automatically dismissed. It is an issue that should be brought to the attention of your attorney.
Yes. Public Defenders are lawyers who practice criminal law. All have graduate degrees in law. With the exception of a few legal interns who are training with our office under the direct supervision of an attorney, all assistant public defenders have passed the rigorous requirements of The Florida Bar to practice law in this state.
Attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office can only represent indigent people charged with criminal offenses (felony, misdemeanor, criminal traffic, juvenile delinquency, or criminal contempt) or people held under the Baker Act or Sexually Violent Predator Act.

An attorney from the Public Defender’s Office cannot represent you until the Clerk or the judge appoints our office to your case.

Defendants must apply and qualify for the Public Defender’s services.

Visit the Clerk of the Court to get an "Application for Indigent Status and Appointment of the Public Defender." Completely fill out the application, providing information about income, debts, any owned property, etc.

The Clerk will review the application and determine whether you qualify for the Public Defender. Defendants whose income is at or below 250% of the federal poverty guidelines, or who are unable to pay for the services of a private attorney without substantial hardship to his family, qualify for the services of the Public Defender.

Click Here to see the Poverty Guidelines (http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/14poverty.cfm).

All clients completing an Application for Appointment of the Public Defender must pay a $50 application fee. If the fee has not been paid before you are sentenced, it will be imposed as a condition of your sentence.

Very often in our county, assistant public defenders will not be appointed to represent defendants charged with a misdemeanor who are not facing jail time.

If the Clerk finds that you do not qualify for the Public Defender, you can ask the judge to reconsider that decision at your next court date.
No. The application fee is $50. Also, if you enter a plea or are convicted at trial, the court will enter an order requiring payment of reasonable attorneys' fees or the court can make the fee a lien which could affect your credit. There is no fee ordered if your case is dismissed or you are acquitted.
The fee applies whether or not you actually are appointed a Public Defender, and is applicable when you apply for the services of the Public Defender's Office.
Only the state attorney or the court can "drop" or dismiss a case. Even if the victim says they do not want to prosecute the case, the decision of whether to prosecute is still up to the state attorney.