What do Public Defenders do?

Public Defenders are attorneys who represent you in a criminal case. We handle all aspects of the case from arrest to trial.

Who does the Public Defender’s Office represent?

The Public defender’s Office represents indigent clients accused of a crime, including juveniles and traffic cases. We also represent clients in Baker Act and Sexually Violent Predator cases.

What is the difference between a private attorney and a Public Defender?

A private attorney is someone you pay to represent you. A Public Defender is appointed to represent you if you do not have the ability to hire a private attorney. All attorneys that go to court and practice law (private attorney or Public Defender) are licensed by the Florida Bar.

I cannot afford an attorney, what are my options?

If you are indigent and cannot afford an attorney, the Public defender’s Office will be appointed to represent you. A specific Assistant Public Defender will be assigned to your case within about 24 hours of our office being appointed.

How do I qualify for a Public Defender?

You need to fill out an Affidavit of Insolvency which you get from the Clerk of Court or our office. Once you have filled that out, it must be sworn to and turned back in to the clerk’s office to see if you qualify for our services.

If you are in jail, an Affidavit of Insolvency will be provided to you before Initial Appearance. Making a false statement on the Affidavit of Insolvency is a crime. If you make a false statement on the Affidavit of Insolvency, the State may decide to prosecute so please make sure to fill it out completely and honestly.

How do I get a Public Defender to represent me?

Once our office is appointed to represent you, a specific attorney will be assigned to your case.You will receive a letter with the attorney’s name, phone number and email address. It is very important that you meet with the attorney before going to court.

Is there an application fee?

Yes, the application fee is $50 and is due within ten days of our office being appointed. The application fee can be paid through the Clerk’s Office or a Western Union Office. The Public Defender’s Office does not accept any payments directly through our office.

I am not indigent and can afford an attorney, can I still use a Public Defender to represent me?

No, if you are not indigent you need to hire a private attorney. By statute our office can only represent indigent clients.

How do I contact my attorney?

Please see our link to the office directory where you can reach your attorney by phone or email.  Please note that attorneys will not discuss the facts of the case with family members or friends even if the client gives permission.  If your attorney talks to others about the facts of the case and about what the client tells them it is a violation of the attorney/client privilege.   We can explain procedural issues to family members and friends.

What is the best way to contact the different offices?

The best way to reach our office is to call or email your attorney directly. Please see our link to the office directory where you can reach your attorney by phone or email. Please note that attorneys will not discuss the facts of the case with family members or friends even if the client gives permission.

If your attorney talks to others about the facts of the case and about what the client tells them it is a violation of the attorney/client privilege. We can explain procedural issues to family members and friends. If you are unable to reach your attorney you can try the following:

Orange County
407-836-4812
407-836-4813

Osceola County
407 742-7070

Juvenile

407 836-7580

I just got arrested, what do I do?

If you attend initial appearance at the jail (which is your first appearance within 24 hours of arrest), you will be able to speak with an attorney form our office. If you bond out before going to initial appearance, you can fill out an affidavit of insolvency with the Clerk of Courts to get our office appointed. It is important that you make notes for your attorney about any witnesses, name and phone numbers, any evidence that needs to be collected or any other issues for your case.

It is extremely important that you do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone other than your attorney.

I have a loved one in jail, how do I get them an attorney to help?

If the person does not have an attorney and has not been appointed to our office, please call our office and we can set a hearing with the court to determine who their attorney should be. Our attorneys will not discuss the facts of the case with you as that is confidential information that falls under the attorney/client privilege.

What do the different court dates mean?

Initial Appearance – This court date is within 24 hours of arrest. It is an opportunity to hear what the arrest was for and for the Judge to set a bond if one has not already been set.

Arraignment – This court date is normally within 30 to 60 days after arrest. It is held after formal charges have been filed by the State Attorney. It is an opportunity to hear the formal charges against you and to receive new court dates. If you are in jail, your attorney will waive you appearance at arraignment. If you are not in jail, you should contact your attorney to see if they are waiving your appearance at arraignment. The Judge will not listen to argument at this stage of the proceedings. Therefore in most cases, as plea of not guilty is entered.

Case Management – This court date is an opportunity for the attorneys and the Judge to discuss the case and potentially get a plea offer. Your appearance may be waived but please speak with your attorney about that.

Pre Trial Conference – This is an opportunity for the attorneys to tell the Judge if they are ready for trial, need a continuance, or if the case will plea. Your appearance may be waived but please speak with your attorney about that.

Trial – The trial date. Normally a lot of cases are set for trial on the same day and Judge will set the order of trials that day. You MUST show up for your trial.

What happens if I miss court?

If you miss a court date, it is considered to be a “failure to appear”. At that point the Judge will likely issue a warrant for your arrest and will either set a bond or set it at no bond.

If you miss a court date, you waive your right to speedy trial. If you are having an emergency and are afraid you may miss court, please contact your attorney as soon as possible to that we can try to avoid having a warrant issued for your arrest.

How do I track my court case online?

You can track your case by clicking Track My Case.

Can I file my own motions?

No, if you are represented by an attorney, you cannot file your own motions.  If you try to file on your own, a copy will be sent to the judge, the State and your attorney and the motion will not be considered because it would have to be filed by your attorney.

Can I write to the Judge?

We advise against writing to the Judge.  First it is considered ex parte communication which is not allowed.   Second, a copy of anything sent to the Judge is given to the state attorney and your attorney.   It is not a good idea to write to the state attorney.  Anything you write can be used against you down the line.

What happens if I am out of jail and get picked back up on a new charge?

If you get arrested on a new charge or placed back in jail for any reason please contact the original attorney on your case as soon as possible so they know you are in jail and can contact you.

How does jail visitation and phone calls work?

All calls and video visitations are recorded (except for calls made directly to your attorney and visits with your attorney).  This means that every time a call is placed to a family member or friend it is recorded.  Every time a video visit happens with family or friends, it is recorded.

Please do not discuss the case with anyone other than your attorney.  We have seen many cases where the jail calls and visits have been used against our clients at trial.  In order to set up a visitation, please see the link to the jail website.

I cannot drive to court, how do I get to court using public transportation?

You can take a bus or taxi to court. All of our office locations are close to a bus stop.

I am on Probation, is this something the Public Defender’s Office manages?

Our office does not “manage” you while you are on probation. We can be re-appointed to file an early termination of probation, modification or a violation of probation. The probation office manages people on probation.

What happens if I do not like the result of my case?

If you enter a plea, you cannot appeal; you can only move to withdraw your plea.  However you need to have legal grounds to withdraw your plea, such as you did not understand, someone forced you to enter it, etc . . .  and your request to withdraw must be filed within 30 days.  If you go to trial, and are not happy with the result, we can file an appeal but you need to let your attorney know as soon as possible because we need to be appointed and file the notice of appeal within 30 days of your sentence.

Please keep in mind that an appeal does not review the actual facts of your case.  An appeal is to decide if the Judge made a wrong legal decision in your case.