How We Do It

Our initial involvement with a case usually occurs at the time of arraignment, which means that the accused person is brought before a judge or magistrate and told what crime they have been charged with and the maximum possible penalty for the offense. The judge also advises every one of the right to have an attorney appointed by the Court for those persons who are unable to hire their own attorney. Typically, Public Defender Frederick Johnson is appointed if a defendant is found to be eligible for the services of a court appointed attorney.

When an individual is charged with a misdemeanor (an offense with a maximum penalty of one year or less), the Court notifies the accused by mail of the time and date that the person must report to the court for arraignment. An appearance bond is set at that time. There may be no requirement for a cash bond, but the court often sets a cash bond and any conditions of bond deemed appropriate. Failure to appear usually results in an arrest warrant.

The persons who are charged with a felony offense are not generally notified that they have been charged with a crime. An arrest warrant is usually issued when the Prosecutor authorizes a criminal charge and the complaint is signed by a judge. Any accused person with an arrest warrant can voluntarily turn themselves in to the Court for arraignment, or they may be arrested by the police and jailed until they have been arraigned and a bond is set by the judge. Arraignments at the County Jail are done by video camera. The accused are kept in a secure area and the Judge is in a courtroom. Observers are not allowed in the courtroom, but are usually allowed to watch the video proceedings in the Jail lobby. Information is provided to defendants at the time of arraignment on how to contact our office to consult further with an attorney. Every incarcerated client has free phone access to the Office.

Juveniles accused of delinquency matters are typically notified by mail about when they and a parent must appear at the Family Court for an initial hearing in a juvenile matter. Juveniles may be detained on a 'pick up order' which is the equivalent of an arrest warrant. There is weekend representation for abuse/neglect proceedings and juvenile delinquency matters that require a hearing within twenty four hours.

The Public Defender office can be appointed at any point during court proceedings, up to and including trial and sentencing. We may also be appointed as standby legal counsel for defendants who choose to represent themselves. In addition, we are appointed to represent the vast majority of defendants charged with violation of probation cases. Upon conviction, these cases can result in a new sentence for the defendant up to the maximum of the original charges. 

An Assistant Public Defender is made available on a daily basis for arraignment on violation of probation cases, civil appointments for contempt of court, criminal contempt, personal protection order violations, child support, paternity and extradition cases. In addition, an Assistant Public Defender is assigned "Attorney of the Day" duties on a daily basis to handle emergencies that may arise requiring the presence of an attorney, such as photographic or in person lineups. The "Attorney of the Day" also serves a community service function by answering general legal questions from the public. Defendants who are not represented by counsel are often referred to this office by the Court for legal information to be appointed as standby legal counsel for defendants who choose to represent themselves. In addition, we are appointed to represent the vast majority of defendants charged with violation of probation cases. Upon conviction, these cases can result in a new sentence for the defendant up to the maximum of the original charges.

Attorneys are assigned cases by division as identified in the Public Defender organizational chart. Public defenders are also assigned backup duties to assist other staff attorneys with preliminary examinations, extraditions, civil or criminal contempt proceedings, motions, hearings, pre-trials, trials and sentencing’s.