Practice Areas

The Contra Costa County Public Defender Office is committed to "vertical representation" of our clients. This means that each client is assigned one attorney who has sole responsibility for the client's case. Unlike public defender models where clients are represented by a different attorney at every stage of the case, we strive to insure that the substantive consultations, strategy development and in-court representation is provided by the one assigned attorney to the greatest extent possible. 

Our policy is to rotate attorneys among both office locations and geographical areas of the County so that experience can be gained practicing in all courts. We also rotate attorneys among the different types of assignments so that all attorneys in our office will gain and share experiences in each practice area. 

Felonies
Attorneys assigned to felony caseloads typically have had at least 1 to 2 years of experience in other practice areas. Attorneys are responsible for all aspects of each case assigned to them, including preliminary hearings, motions, plea negotiations, and jury trials. Attorneys also file writs and interlocutory appeals from decisions in the Superior Court, and occasionally argue before the Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court. 

Because the case is assigned at an early stage, the attorney is able to develop a positive relationship with the client. The attorney also develops a thorough understanding of the factual and legal issues involved in each case. Attorneys are assisted by a staff of investigators, law clerks and paralegals.

Misdemeanors
Attorneys assigned to misdemeanor caseloads handle all aspect of their cases, from writing and arguing motions, to plea negotiations, to jury trials. Our misdemeanor attorneys quickly gain a substantial amount of trial experience, averaging 1 to 2 jury trials a month. 

The department consistently ranks as the top county defender office in the State in terms of the number of both misdemeanor and felony cases which proceed to jury trial. Attorneys who are interested in learning the skills of trial advocacy can become experienced trial lawyers in a relatively short period of time.

Juvenile Delinquency
Attorneys assigned to juvenile delinquency cases represent minors under the age of 18 charged with crimes ranging from marijuana possession to murder. The attorneys represent the minors through all of the proceedings, from the initial detention hearing and plea, through motions, trials and dispositions. 

While minors in California do not have the right to jury trials, they do have the right to court trials which our delinquency attorneys conduct frequently. 

The attorneys represent minors in courts in Martinez and Richmond. 

We also represent minors involved in Juvenile Drug Court proceedings. 

Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS)
Attorneys in the department represent clients who have been placed in psychiatric hospitals against their will. Under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, people who have been involuntarily conserved can challenge their conservatorship with the aid of an attorney. 

LPS clients have the right to a jury trial once a year. At the trial the state must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is incapable of providing food, clothing and shelter, or is a danger to self or others, due to mental illness. Our attorneys safeguard the due process rights of these clients, ensuring that the state does not conserve people who do not fit within the parameters of the Act.

Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVP)
California's Sexually Violent Predator Act applies to persons who have been convicted of forcible sex crimes or child molestation against one or more victims, and who are due to be released from prison. Prior to release, the District Attorney of the county from which the person was sent to prison, may file a petition alleging that the person has a mental disorder that will make it difficult to refrain from committing similar crimes in the future. Attorneys assigned to these cases represent clients at pretrial hearings, jury trials and occasionally in the appellate courts. The attorneys also conduct civil discovery on behalf of their clients, including the depositions of expert witnesses. 



Disclaimer:

This site is meant to provide information of a general nature which you should verify with an attorney before relying upon it. It does not provide legal advice and is not meant to establish an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice you should ALWAYS contact an attorney.