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Arrested: What to Expect
The 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution proclaims that “[I]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall…have the assistance of counsel for his [or her] defense.” In 1963, the United States Supreme Court, in deciding the case of Gideon v. Wainwright, ruled that any person charged with a criminal offense and unable to retain an attorney shall have an attorney appointed should they so desire. In light of this ruling, Florida and other states established the office of the Public Defender to represent these citizens.

Each of the 20 Judicial Circuits in Florida has a separate Office of the Public Defender. These offices represent indigent persons charged with a criminal offense as well as persons facing civil commitment under the Baker Act and the Sexual Violent Predator Act.  Public Defenders provide zealous and effective representation to persons who cannot afford to hire private counsel.
Each Office of the Public Defender is headed by an elected Public Defender who is a constitutional officer of the State of Florida. The Public Defender is a licensed attorney and a member of The Florida Bar and is elected to office for a four-year term.  The Public Defender’s staff consists of Assistant Public Defenders who are also licensed attorneys and members of The Florida Bar, as well as investigators, legal assistants, and administrative personnel.
An Assistant Public Defender will represent you and work with investigators, witness interviewers, and legal assistants on your case. Third-year law students and law school graduates not yet admitted to The Florida Bar may also work with Assistant Public Defenders in our Office. These individuals are called legal interns.

The Public Defender’s Office keeps apprised of all new developments in the law. As part of continuing legal education, the Public Defender holds in-house training classes for all employees and regularly sends attorneys and other employees to outside training programs.
*Remember to consult with your attorney if you have questions.

The Public Defender only represents people who are indigent as defined by Florida law.
All persons charged with a crime who face jail time are entitled to representation by an attorney. In order to be represented by the Public Defender, you must complete a financial affidavit (or application) to determine if you qualify for our services.  The financial affidavit may be filled out in jail, in court or can be filled out at the Clerk of Court Office located in the county where the criminal case is pending.  Please note that in misdemeanor and criminal traffic cases the Judge does not always appoint the Public Defender to represent you even if you are indigent. If an “order of no imprisonment” is filed in your misdemeanor or criminal traffic case, you are not entitled to the appointment of the Public Defender. This means that in those circumstances if you cannot pay for your own attorney, you will not have an attorney representing you.
If you are  found to be indigent by the Court you will qualify for the services of the Public Defender. Please note the Clerk of Court will charge you a $50 application fee. The $50 application fee must be paid within 7 days of the date you signed the application form.  If you are acquitted or all of your charges are dismissed, the Clerk of Court will reimburse this fee upon request. If the Clerk determines that you do not qualify for the services of the Public Defender, you can ask the Judge to review that decision. Once the Clerk of Court has determined your indigency status, you will receive an approval or denial letter in the mail.
Under Florida law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your e-mail address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing. SB 80/Chapter 2006-232, Laws of Florida (Public Records Law Regarding E-mail).
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