What is a public defender?
A public defender is an attorney appointed by the Court to represent a person who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. In Pinal County, public defenders represent adults and juveniles in misdemeanor criminal cases, felony criminal cases, and mental health civil commitment cases. A public defender is just like any other attorney. He or she graduated from an ABA accredited law school, passed the Arizona bar exam, and is licensed to practice law in Arizona.
How do I get a public defender?
A public defender can represent you only if the Pinal County Superior Court or a Justice Court within Pinal County determines that you cannot afford to hire a private attorney and appoints the Public Defender’s Office.
Working with your attorney
There are several things you can do to help your attorney while your case is pending:
- Stay in touch with the Public Defender’s Office.
- Give your attorney or his/her secretary your mailing address and telephone number. Let them know immediately if your address or telephone number changes. If you have more than one telephone number where you can be reached, give them all of those numbers.
- Be on time for appointments. If you are going to be late, call the Public Defender’s Office and let someone know.
- If your attorney calls you, return the call as soon as possible.
- Give your attorney a list of possible witnesses.
- Give your attorney copies of all relevant documents.
- Tell your attorney if you have any other cases pending.
- If you post bond, call your attorney and tell him/her that you have been released.
- If you are arrested, call your attorney and tell him/her that you are in custody.
- Your attorney cannot discuss your case with anyone without your permission. If you want your attorney to be able to discuss your case with a friend or family member, you must tell your attorney that it is ok to talk to that person.
What else should I do while my case is pending?
- Be on time for court hearings. If you are going to be late, call the Public Defender’s Office and let someone know.
- Dress nicely when you come to court. You do not need to wear a suit, but please do not wear shorts or a sleeveless shirt. Do not wear anything that advertises alcohol, drugs, or nudity. Do not wear gang symbols or colors. Do not wear short skirts or anything revealing. Make sure your chest and stomach are covered.
- Make a good impression. Call the judge “Sir,” “Ma’am,” or “Your Honor” during hearings.
- Do not discuss your case with anyone other than your attorney and other members of the Public Defender’s Office. This includes all inmates, police, family, friends, co-defendants, probation officers, parole officers, judges, and prosecutors. Anything you say to any of these people may be used against you. They can be called as witnesses even if they don’t want to be witnesses.
- Remember that all telephone calls made from the jail and all personal visits at the jail are recorded.
- Do not send letters directly to the judge or the prosecutor or anyone else in the court system. Do not ask anyone else to write directly to those people. If you or a family member or friend has a letter for the judge or someone else in the court system, send it to your attorney. He/she will send it to the appropriate person if he/she thinks it will help your case.
- Follow all of the conditions of your release. This includes:
- Do not leave Arizona without permission from the Court.
- Obey every law. Do not commit a new crime.
- Do not use alcohol or drugs.
- Do not contact anyone you have been ordered not to contact. This includes telephone calls, text messages, e-mails, in person conversations, and telling someone to tell that person something for you.
- If you have been ordered not to return to the scene of the crime, don’t. If you need to get your personal property from that place, call the local police and ask for a civil standby. They will go with you one time so you can get your things.
- If you were placed on Pre-Trial Supervision, stay in touch with the Pinal County Adult Probation Department. Do everything your probation officer tells you to do. The number for the Adult Probation Department is 520-866-5600.
Who makes decisions regarding my case?
As the client, you always get to decide:
- Whether to go to trial or take a plea agreement
- Whether to have a trial before a judge or a jury
- Whether or not to testify
- Whether to appeal if you are convicted
You should make these decisions after talking to your attorney about them.
Your attorney is responsible for making strategic decisions, such as:
- Which motions to file
- Which witnesses to call
- Whether to object in court
What if I miss a hearing?
Contact your attorney immediately. If the judge issued a warrant for your arrest, your attorney can arrange a self-surrender. If you turn yourself in voluntarily, there is a possibility that the judge will quash the warrant and allow you to remain out of custody while your case is pending. If the police arrest you on the warrant before you turn yourself in, it is highly unlikely that the judge will grant a request to allow you to remain out of custody until your case is resolved.
Contacting the Public Defender's Office
The Pinal County Public Defender’s Office is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except on holidays.
Toll free: 800-208-6897