Frequently Asked Questions
How do I obtain the services of a public defender?
Attorneys from the Office of the Public Defender are appointed by the Court. If you are charged with a crime and cannot afford to hire an attorney, ask the court to appoint a public defender at your first appearance before a judge. You will be asked to submit a financial declaration to determine your eligibility for appointed counsel. At the conclusion of your case, the Court may order you to reimburse the County for services provided.
Are Public Defenders lawyers?
Yes. All public defenders are lawyers licensed to practice law by the California State Bar. Fresno County Public Defenders are widely recognized as among the best criminal defense lawyers. The Fresno County Public Defender office has more attorneys certified by the State Bar as specialists in criminal law than any other public defender office in California.
If I am arrested, should I talk to the police?
No, if you are arrested, you should request to speak to a lawyer and obtain advice from a lawyer before answering questions from law enforcement. Generally speaking, that means waiting a few days until you're either brought to court or released.
Who pays for the Public Defender?
The County of Fresno provides most of the funding for the Public Defender office. The County does so in order to implement the constitutional right to counsel as required by the the United States Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainright (1963) 372 U.S. 335, 83 S.Ct. 792, 93 A.L.R.2d 733, 9 L.Ed.2d 799. The courts require clients of the Public Defender office to reimburse the County for the cost of their defense. However, the court may only order reimbursement after the case and then only if the client has an ability to pay it. The State of California also contributes funding for certain types of cases.
Does the Public Defender assist people with immigration law?
When a person who is not a United States citizen is charged with a crime and the Public Defender has been appointed to represent that person, the Public Defender will provide basic information on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. For non-citizen defendants, we attempt to reach dispositions that will avoid or reduce harmful immigration consequences. The Public Defender Office is unable to provide anyone information regarding immigration law in cases where the court has not appointed the Public Defender. The courts do not appoint the Public Defender solely to provide immigration advice. People who are citizens of Mexico are able to receive a free consultation with an immigration attorney by contacting the Mexican Consulate in Fresno.
Recently, the California legislature enacted Penal Code section 1203.43. If you are a non-citizen and completed deferred entry of judgment, it is recommended that you read Penal Code section 1203.43 and forms.
Does the Public Defender help people seeking reductions of sentence pursuant to Proposition 47?
Yes. See Proposition 47.
Does the Public Defender help people seeking early parole pursuant to Proposition 57?
No. The parole authorities, not the courts, authorize early release under Proposition 57. As a result, we are unable to assist people in those proceedings.