Orange County Public Defender


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Orange County Public Defender

How can I get an Orange County Public Defender?

A Public Defender requires your qualification.  This means that you must qualify, financially, for their services and have a lawyer from their office appointed by the judge in your case. In order to receive the services of the Public Defender in Orange County, you must fill out a form for the court which lists all your income and assets. The judge then evaluates your financial statement and decides if you are indigent, and should be appointed a Public Defender. If you earn income that is not WIC, welfare, or other government benefits, you may be required to get a private attorney, as the public defender is intended to protect the rights of, and give representation to, those that cannot afford an attorney.

If the public defender previously represented you, or if you were a witness in a case handled by their office, they may declare a conflict and refer you to the alternate defender’s office in Orange County.

Is the Orange County Public Defender free?

The Orange County Public Defender is paid for by the County of Orange.  In almost all cases, however, the court will make a request to pay back the services of the PD that represented you.  That usually involves filling out a financial declaration, and the judge will make the decision of whether or not you have to pay the full amount due, a partial amount, or none of the costs of the OC Public Defender.

Are the Orange County Public Defenders “real attorneys?”

Yes.  They are “real attorneys”, no matter what you have heard from others.  They graduated law school, and took the bar exam, and are licensed, practicing lawyers, just like any private lawyer.

Why do people prefer to have private attorneys, rather than the Orange County Public Defender?

Not every one does.  Some people appreciate the extra care, attention, and expertise of a private attorney who has professional expertise and experience over years of practice.  Every case is different, but there may be several potential disadvantages to using a Public Defender, as follows:

  • Public Defenders typically have anywhere from 35 to 50 cases per day, so it is almost impossible to give the personal attention and counseling time that a private attorney does. As a result, your case may not be receiving the full attention that it deserves.
  • You usually cannot have the attorney show up for you if you have a public defender, because they want you in court at each appearance as a matter of policy, to resolve cases more rapidly.
  • You cannot choose the public defender you get, and you may get a different one every time you show up to court, depending who is on trial, on vacation, or who is handling misdemeanors of felonies.
  • In most courts, your Public Defender may never have even met or talked with you before you must appear in court together. If you have questions and concerns before your court date, you may not have the opportunity to get them answered.
  • Because of the heavy caseload, there sometimes is an incentive for you “just to plead guilty”, based upon the structure and constraints of time, and get the case taken off their plate, and resolve as quickly as possible.
  • You may find a lack of experience. Misdemeanor cases, including DUI, are often used as a “training ground” for new lawyers, and many new Public Defenders get their first real court experience on your type of case. On the other hand, some felony public defenders have much more experience handling cases than the average private defense attorney, based upon the volume of cases handled.
  • Public Defenders cannot represent you at the DMV. The law does not provide for a free, appointed lawyer at the DMV, which is an administrative proceeding, and is important, as it affects your driving privileges.

Your case may do better with one of our Orange County DUI lawyers, or a public defender might be suitable for your case, given the facts involved.

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