What is the Application process for hiring a Public Defender?

Written by Reynolds Defense Firm

On January 6, 2018

Wondering what the application process is to hire a Public Defender?  The phrase “can’t afford one” is not as loose as you might want it to be.  Especially if you’re trying to hire a Court Appointed Attorney.  There are very tight and strict financial guidelines and, frankly, cut offs for who will qualify for a Public Defender and who won’t.

Reynolds Defense Firm doesn’t accept Court Appointed work.   Because we’re a private practice, we can’t tell you exactly when the cut offs are in each jurisdiction or county.  Each courthouse has their own way of calculating the threshold.  That exact threshold will allow a person to qualify for a Public Defender.  What we have seen is that basically if you have a job or if you own property – either one of those things by themselves may well prevent you from qualifying.  The threshold is very low income.  So even if you wanted to go that route, you may not qualify.

The only way for you to know if you qualify is to go to the courthouse and fill out the application, usually during your arraignment date (the first court date that you have).  Once you complete this, the judge will say yes you qualify or no you don’t.  If you qualify, you will be given your assigned attorney’s business card.  Once this happens, you will be your responsibility to call and talk to them after this court appearance.  Please be advised, it might take a week or more until you have your first conversation with your assigned attorney.

Why does it matter if I don’t get to talk to my Public Defender at the Arraignment?

First, there is nobody to answer your questions right away.  If this is your first arrest for DUI, you don’t understand how the process works and you’re probably worried and have a lot of questions.  If you haven’t yet been assigned to your attorney, who can answer these questions for you?

The main difference in hiring a privately retained attorney like Reynolds Defense Firm, is that we can start to help you right away.  We can answer the questions that you have, we can help you determine what the best steps are for your needs.  Further, we have more time to help you create a track record of success.  This will help you with your case, because we can then show to a judge or prosecutor.  Having this extra time give us longer to strategize legal decisions of your case and work with you to make sure we’re all on the same page.

What happens at an arraignment?

Second, when you go to your Arraignment, you are assigned a time & date in front of a specific judge.  What many people don’t realize is that lots of others have that same time, date and judge as you do.  The judge is going to speak to everyone in that room, one at a time.  The way that they typically begin is that the judge starts with the privately retained clients.  Then the judge talks to the clients with Public Defenders.  Last, the judge talks to the people who represent themselves and/or are waiting to have an attorney appointed to them.  So, if you have an assigned time of 8:30 am and you’re waiting to find out if you qualify for a Public Defender, you may not have an opportunity to talk to the judge until 10am.  In several cases, this time is even later.

If you hire Reynolds Defense Firm, we can often waive your need to be at the Arraignment.  In other words, we can go on your behalf.  This helps plenty of our clients, because they don’t have to take more time off work for that court appearance.

 What is involved in the application for a Public Defender?

First, you’re going to have to complete the required application form, called the Affidavit of Eligibility and Request for Court Appointed Counsel, and agree to provide documentation of your income, assets and debts for both you and your spouse, if you have one.  In addition, most jurisdictions in Oregon require a $25 application fee.  You bring this application with you to your Arraignment and promise to provide documentation and submit it to the judge.

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