Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Is A Public Defender?

A public defender is a lawyer appointed to represent people who otherwise cannot reasonably afford to hire an attorney. The Constitution guarantees everyone the right to an attorney, even if they cannot afford one.

Do Public Defenders Defend Criminals?

Public Defenders defend people. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Even when a person is guilty of a crime, they still have rights.

Can I Get A Public Defender To Help Me Sue My Landlord?

Public Defenders practice criminal defense law. Rent related issues and lawsuits are considered civil matters and handled by civil attorneys. We can only provide our services to people who cannot afford a lawyer of their own as determined by Gideon v. Wainwright.

What to expect from your Public Defender?

Here is what you can expect from your lawyer:

Communication: Your lawyer will keep you updated on your case and all the important stages and appointments associated with your case. You will find your lawyer’s name and phone number on the court slip that you receive after each court appearance. If you want to talk to your lawyer, please call 415-553-1671. If you have an emergency, or your lawyer does not call you back within two days, you can call your lawyer’s manager at one of the numbers on the back of this brochure.

Privacy: Everything you tell your lawyer, or other people on your defense team, is private and confidential and cannot be shared with anyone.

Professionalism: We promise that your lawyer will be fully prepared for all of your court hearings and every time he or she meets with you. This means that all the important paperwork will be filed and a thorough investigation of your case will take place. Your lawyer will always treat you and your family with respect and dignity.

Accountability: We review our lawyers and staff every year to make sure that our office is meeting its high standards of legal representation. We will respond to all concerns or complaints right away. If you have a complaint or a compliment, please call the managing attorney at a number listed on the back of this brochure.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Public Defender?

There is no cost to receive the services of a public defender if it is determined that you cannot afford to pay yourself.

The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office will represent you regardless of whether you can pay for our services and will never ask for money as a precondition of our help. When your case ends, if you have been represented by appointed counsel such as the Public Defender’s Office and were convicted of a crime, the judge may conduct a hearing to determine whether you have the present ability to pay all — or a portion of — the costs of your court-appointed attorney. If you cannot afford to pay, you will not be required to do so.

What Are The Stages Of Trial

You can read a general overview of the various stages of court and trial here.