Frequently Asked Questions
Who does the Office of the Public Defender represent?
The Public defender’s Office represents indigent clients accused of a crime, including juveniles and criminal traffic cases. We also represent clients in Baker Act and Sexually Violent Predator cases.
What do Public Defenders do?
Public Defenders are attorneys who represent you in a criminal case. We handle all aspects of the case from arrest to trial.
How do I qualify for a Public Defender
You need to fill out an Affidavit of Insolvency which you get from the Clerk of Court or our office. You can download the applications here. Once you have filled that out, it must be sworn to and turned back in to the clerk’s office or to our office to see if you qualify for our services.
Making a false statement on the Affidavit of Insolvency is a crime. If you make a false statement on the Affidavit of Insolvency, the State may decide to prosecute so please make sure to fill it out completely and honestly.
What is the difference between a private attorney and a Public Defender?
A private attorney is someone you pay to represent you. A Public Defender is appointed to represent you if you do not have the ability to hire a private attorney. All attorneys that go to court and practice law (private attorney or Public Defender) are licensed by the Florida Bar.
How do I contact my attorney?
Please see our link to the office locations where you can call to speak with your attorney. Please note that attorneys will not discuss the facts of the case with family members or friends even if the client gives permission. If your attorney talks to others about the facts of the case and about what the client tells them it is a violation of the attorney/client privilege. We can explain procedural issues to family members and friends.
I cannot afford to hire an attorney, what are my options?
If you are indigent and cannot afford to hire an attorney, the Public Defender’s Office will be appointed to represent you. A specific Assistant Public Defender will be assigned to your case within about 48 hours of our office being appointed.
Can I be represented at first appearance?
Yes. Assistant Public Defenders regularly appear at first appearance hearings to argue for a bond, or a lower bond, or to argue probable cause issues.
What is a first appearance hearing?
The first appearance is a court hearing where a Judge reviews the probable cause affidavit that was submitted by the police to determine if there was probable cause for the arrest. First appearance is only conducted on persons that are in custody. So, if you bonded out before first appearance then no first appearance hearing is necessary. If probable cause is found, then the Judge sets bond (and the conditions of bond).
Where and when are first appearance hearings held?
All first appearance hearings are held in person at the Volusia County Branch Jail Courthouse which is located at: 1300 Red John Road, Daytona Beach, Florida 32124.
On weekdays first appearance hearings are held at 1:30 p.m.
On weekends first appearance hearings are held at 8:30 a.m.
All first appearances hearings are held via Zoom video conferencing technology:
Meeting ID 386 313 2210
On weekdays and weekends, first appearance hearings are held at 8:30 a.m.
During the COVID pandemic, First Appearance hearings are being held via zoom. Please contact our Palatka office for details and the zoom information.
Weekday in person First Apperance hearings are held at 8:30. Lay witnesses, family members, or private attorneys are to arrive the Putnam County Courthouse and go to Courtroom 316.
St. John’s County
First Appearance hearings are being held via zoom. On weekdays the hearings begin at 8:30 am. On the weekends they being at either 8:30 or 9:00 am (depending on which Judge is handling the hearings that weekend).
Please contact our St. Augustine office for details and the zoom information.
Where is the jail located?
There is a jail located in each county of the 7th Judicial Circuit.
Volusia County Jail
1300 Red John Road
Daytona Beach, Florida 32124
Flagler County Jail
1002 Justice Ln
Bunnell, FL 32110
Putnam County Jail
130 Orie Griffin Blvd
Palatka, FL 32177
St. Johns County Jail
3955 Lewis Speedway
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Are first appearance hearings open to the public?
What is bond?
Bond or bail is a monetary assurance that you will appear in court. The amount of bond that is set is based on the severity of the crime that you are charged with. Oftentimes, the police set the bond in accordance with the bond schedule for the County where the arrest is made and other times the Judge sets the bond amount at first appearance.
How does bond work?
Once your bond amount is set then there are two options to post bond. You may post the cash bond or use a bonding service. If you choose to post a cash bond, the jail in the county where the arrest is made can accept the bond and turn it over to the clerk of court.
The clerk of court will hold this bond until the case is concluded. When the case is over the cash bond is returned to the depositor. If you choose to use a bonding company (bondsman) then the bondsman posts a surety bond on your behalf. Typically, a bonding service will charge a 10% fee for this service.
I’ve been arrested or charged with a crime. What happens to my criminal case next?
The first court date after the first appearance is your arraignment. The purpose of the arraignment is to notify a person in a formal way that they have been charged with a crime.
At the arraignment hearing the issues of the case are not discussed, rather the goal for the Judge is to notify you that you have been charged with a crime, tell you what the crime is, and ask you if you intend to hire a private attorney or engage the services of the Public Defender.
What is a felony?
Felony offenses can only be handled by Circuit Court Judges and are punishable by the possibility of more than one-year in prison.
There are several levels of felony charges.
A capital felony is punishable by death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Examples: First degree homicide, Capital Sexual Battery.
A life felony is punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole, or probation for the remainder of your life, and a $15,000 fine.
Examples: Second degree homicide, life sexual battery, life kidnapping, lewd and lascivious molestation of child under 12 years of age.
First Degree Felony
A first-degree felony is punishable by up to thirty years in prison, thirty years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.
Examples: Arson, robbery, trafficking in controlled substances.
Second Degree Felony
A second-degree felony is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, fifteen years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.
Examples: Dealing in stolen property, sale of controlled substance, possession of controlled substance with intent to sell, burglary of a dwelling.
Third Degree Felony
A third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.
Examples: Grand theft, felony DUI, possession of controlled substance, domestic battery by strangulation, carrying a concealed firearm, burglary of a structure or conveyance.
What is discovery?
Discovery in a criminal case is governed by the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.220. In short, the rule in Florida requires that the prosecutor turn all the evidence in the case over to your attorney. This must occur within 15 days after discovery is demanded by your attorney.
What is a misdemeanor?
Misdemeanor offenses are handled at the County Court level and are considered less serious crimes than felony offenses. A misdemeanor is any criminal offense that is punishable by less than one year in jail.
There are two levels of misdemeanor offenses
First degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1000.00 fine.
Examples: Simple battery, DUI, boating under the influence, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, domestic violence battery.
Second degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500.00 fine.
Examples: Simple assault, criminal mischief (where damage is $200 or less), petit theft (first offense, simple trespass, driving on a suspended license with knowledge (first offense).