Frequently Asked Questions
What Does a Public Defender / Public Defender's Office do?
The Office of the Public Defender represents criminal defendants who are indigent, meaning he or she cannot afford to hire an attorney, and need a court appointed attorney. In Calhoun County, the Office of the Public Defender was created to replace the Court Appointed Counsel system and improve the quality of indigent criminal defense in the county by having a fully staffed, full-time office handling indigent criminal defense. The attorneys in the Office of the Public Defender are employed by Calhoun County but work exclusively for their client’s benefit.
What are my Rights in a Criminal Case?
Criminal defendants have the right to a trial by jury, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, to have the prosecutor prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she is guilty, to have the witnesses against him or her appear at trial and to question those witnesses, to have the court order any witnesses the defense has to appear at trial, to remain silent during the trial and to not have that silence used against him or her, and to testify if he or she wants to testify.
Should I Talk to the Police?
Every person who has watched a crime procedure show has heard the line "you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you." The important thing to remember on this is that what you say will be used against you. If you are interacting with the police, it is extremely unlikely that you are going to be able to talk your way out of the situation. The best thing you can do is clearly assert your right to silence, request an attorney, and politely refuse to answer any questions.
If I Pay my Public Defender Will He or She Work Harder on my Case?
No. In fact, the attorney appointed to your case is prohibited from taking any form of compensation from you in exchange for handling your case. The purpose of the Public Defender's office is the provide zealous defense for individuals unable to afford to retain an attorney. The attorneys hired by the office have a passion for representing the indigent and will always work hard on your case. Offering to pay your public defender extra will not in any way impact how your case is handled.
Is my Public Defender a "Real" Attorney?
Yes, the public defender assigned to your case is a real, licensed attorney. Most of the attorneys now working for the office of the public defender have significant experience working in private practice. The attorneys working in the office were chosen for their proven experience, skills, and passion for indigent defense.
The Judge Ordered that I'm not Supposed to Have Contact with Someone in my Case am I Allowed to Talk to Them if they Contact me?
If a judge enters a no-contact order in a defendant's case that means that the defendant is not allowed to have contact with the protected person. No-contact orders do not prevent the protected person from reaching out to the defendant and trying to contact them. The order only applies one way and the protected person does not face any potential consequences for contacting the defendant. It is important to understand that no contact really means no contact. Even if the protected person initiates the contact, the defendant is still ordered to not have contact with him or her and can face consequences for doing so.
Can my Family be with me when I meet with my attorney?
Your family should not be with you when you meet with your attorney. Anything you say to your attorney in private is protected by attorney-client privilege. Your attorney cannot be forced to reveal these communications and is ethically prohibited from doing so. This protection extends to the rest the attorney's office including any other attorneys and staff. It does not extend to your family. If you have family or anyone else in the room when you are talking to your attorney the communication is no longer protected by that privilege. This means that those people who are present could potentially be called to testify about what you told your attorney. The best thing to do is to have meetings with only your attorney and members of the attorney's office.