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What can we do for you?

When you receive a court-appointed attorney you have someone to help you with your legal case. Your attorney works for you! By law and by the ethics of the legal profession only you and your attorney have any input as to how your case is defended.

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There are three decisions that you alone get to make, though your attorney will advise you as to what they believe the right decision for your case is. The first decision to make is whether or not to “take a deal.”

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These are like criminal cases but for minors instead of adults. People who are under the age of 18 cannot commit crimes in the state of Oregon.

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Juvenile dependency cases are initiated when Department of Human Services Child Welfare (DHS) receives a report of concern for abuse or neglect of a child. If DHS believes a report needs to be investigated, DHS will send out a Protective Services Caseworker to investigate.

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A Public Defender?

Many people do not understand that a public defender is an attorney and an attorney is a lawyer. The perception is often that lawyers who become public defenders are inexperienced, incompetent or just don’t care. This could not be farther from the truth.

hile it is true that if you hire an attorney for hundreds of dollars an hour, they will likely have more time to meet with you and work on your case than a public defender with a large caseload, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will get a better outcome or that the representation is better. We here at Southwestern Oregon Public Defender Services take pride in providing high quality representation to our indigent clients. Our attorneys have made a conscious choice to represent you rather than work in private practice and, while we each have our own reasons for doing so, we all agree that justice is for everyone not just for the wealthy!

You should also be aware that Oregon has standards that attorneys must meet before they can be appointed to represent indigent clients. While an attorney in private practice can pass the bar, open a law office and take on any case without any experience, a public defender cannot. As a public defender fresh out of law school, we are supervised by experienced attorneys to ensure we are competent to handle cases before we will be allowed to take on a case independently. In fact, it can take a new public defender several years of supervised casework before they would be allowed to represent someone on a serious felony charge.

Another critical difference is that, as public defenders, we are not in any way motivated by how much money your case can bring to our firm. Our passion is in holding the state to its burdens and ensuring each of our clients is treated fairly and with dignity.

Public defenders do tend to have more clients than attorneys in private practice. We also spend more time in court which can mean more experience in dealing with contested hearings. We are also in frequent contact with state’s attorneys or district attorneys which can benefit you because we have established relationships and can anticipate their behavior better than those who only have passing contact with them.
You can help your attorney by staying in touch with them and ensuring that if your phone number or address change, you provide that information to them. It is also important that you have your voice mail set up so that if your attorney attempts to reach you, they will be able to leave you a message. Updates can be provided to your attorney’s support staff and they can answer some questions for you like when your next court date is. Support staff can also schedule an office appointment for you or a telephone appointment for you. If you have trouble reaching your attorney, be sure to let support staff know because they may be able to explain what is going on, maybe your attorney is in trial, or maybe they are out of the office. Clear and polite communication is critical in ensuring you have a good relationship with your attorney.

When dealing with a Police Officer

You are required to correctly identify yourself to a police officer investigating a traffic offense or a crime; if you give a false name you could be charged with a crime.

You do not have to answer any other questions as you have the right to remain silent.

You do not have to let the officer search you, your car, your home, your belongings (unless you are on probation or parole, talk to your attorney about these complicated situations). You can tell an officer no if they ask to search. An officer may tell you that a search is required and then ask if that is ok. What this means is that the officer is asking you again for permission to search and you can say no.

When communicating with a police officer it is best to be calm and polite. It is also a good idea not to make jokes or use sarcasm. You must also be clear, answer with “no” or “I want an attorney.”

You have the right to have an attorney present during any questioning. You must make this clear to the officer; say “I want an attorney.”

If an officer tells you that they are taking you into custody, do what you are instructed to do. Resisting arrest is a crime you can be charged with.

What if I am in jail?

If you are arrested and held in jail you should have your first court appearance within 36 hours of your arrest excluding weekends and holidays. At this first court appearance you may ask for an attorney. The court will advise you of your rights and of the maximum possible penalty you face. Your attorney will work with you to try and have you released.

It is very important that while you are held in custody you do NOT talk about your case! Not to guards, other inmates, not even to friends or family who call or come to visit. You should NOT talk about your case via phone calls or letters either! All phone calls and letters that are not protected by attorney-client privilege can be copied and used against you!

DO NOT show your legal documents or police reports to ANYONE!

If you do not know who your attorney is or when your next court appearance is you can ask a deputy or, if you are a client of ours, you can send a kite to the public defender’s office.