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Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: If I am arrested, should I talk to the police?
A: If you are arrested, you should request to speak to a lawyer and obtain advice from a lawyer before answering police questions.

Q: The police didn’t read me my rights; can I get my case dismissed?
A: Probably not. Not being properly advised of your constitutional rights may have consequences that will impact the ultimate outcome of your case, but the mere fact that you were not properly advised does not mean your case is automatically dismissed. It is an issue that should be brought to the attention of your attorney.

Q: Are Public Defenders real attorneys?
A: Yes. Public Defenders are lawyers who practice criminal law. All have graduated from college and accredited law schools. All assistant public defenders have passed the rigorous requirements of The Florida Bar to practice law in this state.

Q: How do I get a Public Defender
A: Attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office can only represent indigent people charged with criminal offenses (felony, misdemeanor, criminal traffic, juvenile delinquency, or criminal contempt) or people held under the Baker Act or Sexually Violent Predator Act.

An attorney from the Public Defender’s Office cannot represent you until the Clerk or the judge appoints our office to your case.

Defendants must apply and qualify for the Public Defender’s services.

Visit the Clerk of the Court to get an “Application for Indigent Status and Appointment of the Public Defender” or print the attached copy:

Application Form

Completely fill out the application, providing information about income, debts, any owned property, etc.

The Clerk will review the application and determine whether you qualify for the Public Defender. Defendants who are unable to pay for the services of a private attorney without substantial hardship to their family, qualify for the services of the Public Defender.

If the Clerk finds that you do not qualify for the Public Defender, you can ask the judge to reconsider that decision at your next court date.

Q: Is a Public Defender free?
A:
No. An application fee of $50 is required by state law. Also, if you enter a plea or are convicted at trial, the court will enter an order requiring payment of reasonable attorneys’ fees. There is no fee ordered if your case is dismissed or you are acquitted.

Q: Why is there an application fee?
A: The $50 application fee was created by the legislature. The fee applies whether or not you actually are appointed a Public Defender, and is applicable when you apply for the services of the Public Defender’s Office.  For your convenience, the application fee can be paid to the clerk of court or at the Office of the Public Defender in Bartow.