How do I get an attorney to represent me?

The primary responsibility of the Public Defender's Office is to ensure the representation of any person - whether in custody or not - who is accused of a crime and unable to afford counsel.

If you have been arrested and remain in custody, you will usually be brought to court within 48 hours of your arrest. If you are not in custody, you will be given a time and place to appear for your first court date. The first court date is called the arraignment. When you first appear in court for your arraignment, you may appear with private counsel.

If you are not able to afford counsel, the judge will ask you if you intend to hire an attorney, or if you are requesting appointment of the Public Defender to represent you. The court may inquire about your financial resources, but more commonly, the court appoints our office to represent you and schedules your next two court dates. You will be directed to contact the Public Defender's Office and fill out a financial evaluation form.

The County of Napa requires completion of the financial evaluation form and Public Defender staff can assist you in filling out the form. The Public Defender’s Office will make an initial determination as to whether you are eligible for our services. If you are told you do not qualify for our services and you believe you should, notify our staff and the matter will be calendared for an eligibility hearing so the court can determine if you qualify. No person will be denied representation due to their inability to pay for attorney services.

When you first come to our office, all misdemeanor defendants will be able to schedule an appointment with the attorney who will represent you. If you are charged with a felony, the file will be reviewed to select the most appropriate attorney. You should call the office within a day or two to schedule your first appointment with the attorney who will represent you.

If you are in custody when the Public Defender is appointed, the court will notify us that we represent you and your attorney will interview you at the jail as soon as possible. At your first meeting, your attorney will explain the court process and the charges against you. It is important that your attorney have a copy of the police reports and charges before they interview you.

Show All Answers

1. Are Deputy Public Defenders real attorneys?
2. How do I get an attorney to represent me?
3. Can I get advice from an attorney before I appear in court?
4. How do I contact my attorney?
5. I forgot the name of my attorney. How can I find out who is representing me?
6. I forgot where my court is located. How can I find out where I'm supposed to appear?
7. I can't afford an attorney. Will I have to pay to be represented by the Public Defender's Office?
8. How much can I earn and still be eligible for the services of an attorney?
9. What if the Public Defender cannot represent me?
10. Are all "appointed attorneys" employees of the Public Defender's Office?
11. What is "O.R."?
12. What is bail?
13. When will the judge set bail and/or consider an O.R. release?
14. What happens when someone is charged with a felony?
15. What happens when someone is charged with a misdemeanor?
16. Will the Public Defender represent me if I am a resident of another state?
17. Will the Public Defender's Office represent me if I am a citizen of another country?
18. Will the Public Defender's Office represent me in an extradition hearing?
19. My English is limited. How can I get an interpreter to assist me or my witnesses?
20. I like a certain attorney. Can I choose who represents me?
21. I don’t like my attorney. How do I get a new one?
22. Who is eligible for drug treatment within the criminal justice system under Proposition 36?
23. I have heard about the success of drug treatment courts. How do they differ from regular criminal courts?
24. What happens when someone under the age of 18 is charged with a crime?
25. My child, who is under 18, has been arrested and needs drug treatment, mental health treatment or specialized education. Can the Public Defender help?
26. Will the Public Defender's Office represent me in the appellate courts?
27. Will the Public Defender represent me in a habeas corpus proceeding?
28. What is an expungement?
29. Who is eligible for an expungement?
30. When is an expungement available?
31. What will an expungement do for me?
32. Does the Public Defender's Office have access to any police officers or investigators who can look for evidence that will help me talk to witnesses in my case?
33. I know my attorney can't repeat anything I say in confidence. How can I be sure that what I say to a Public Defender investigator or paralegal will be kept confidential?
34. If the police contact me, do I have to speak with them?
35. What should I do if the police want to search me or my belongings?
36. I want to sue the Police Department. Will the Public Defender represent me?
37. I was treated unfairly by the judge in my case, and I want to sue the court. Will the Public Defender's Office represent me?
38. I am the victim of a crime. Will the Public Defender represent me?
39. I need an attorney to help me in a civil case (like divorce, landlord/tenant dispute, debt payment, bankruptcy, child custody). Does the Public Defender handle that type of case?
40. How do I get a certificate of rehabilitation?
41. What is Proposition 64?