General FAQs

What is a public defender?
A public defender is an attorney licensed by the State Bar of California who is appointed by the court to represent people who are financially unable to afford to hire an attorney. 

What kinds of cases does the Office of Public Defender handle?
Attorneys from the Office of Public Defender represent adults charged with crimes (misdemeanor or felony) or violations of probation; and minors (persons under 18) charged in the juvenile court. Public defenders do not represent persons accused of traffic violations or any code infraction which cannot result in a jail sentence. Finally, public defenders are also sometimes appointed for representation of persons potentially subject to LPS proceedings under the relating to involuntary civil mental health commitments. 

What will it cost to be represented by a public defender?
Adults charged with a crime and parents of juveniles may have to pay fees ordered by the court at the conclusion of the case. The client or parent is referred to the Cost Recovery Department of the county by the judge who orders the amount to be paid. The Cost Recovery Department makes a determination as to how much, if any, of the ordered amount the person can afford to pay. This determination is made on a sliding scale based upon the person's financial resources. A payment scheduled may be arranged with the Cost Recovery Department. The Office of the Public Defender is not involved in the determination of, or collection of fees.

What should I do if I am arrested or I believe I am under suspicion in a police investigation?
You should either telephone our office or come into one of our offices to speak with an attorney before you speak to the police or anyone else. Consultation with an attorney is always the most prudent step. Most police officers or investigators will understand and must respect your desire to first speak with an attorney. Any consultation with an attorney from the Office of Public Defender will be completely confidential. Telephone calls from any local jail are free and collect calls regarding matters pending in Contra Costa County will be accepted.