General FAQ

Pursuant to Government Code §27706, et seq., a Public Defender is either an elected or appointed public servant who represents indigent and limited non-indigent defendants in certain defined legal cases.  Counties may choose to establish a Public Defender to represent these clients or may contract with private attorneys to render legal care.  Most California counties have Public Defenders.

The Public Defender appoints Deputy Public Defenders to represent individual clients.  Deputy Public Defenders must be attorneys licensed by the California State Bar.  An attorney who is already a member of the Bar must pass highly competitive and rigorous examinations and interviews in order to become a Deputy Public Defender. In addition, Public Defenders throughout California require and support ongoing legal education and training to ensure the highest quality in their Deputies.

If you are financially unable to afford an attorney, at your arraignment the court will appoint a lawyer for you from the San Bernardino County Public Defender. If the Public Defender has a legal conflict of interest with your case, the arraignment court will appoint a private law firm that has a contract with the County to provide indigent defense services.

Our office cannot provide counsel unless we have been appointed.

Once the criminal case has concluded, the court may order clients to pay a reasonable fee for Public Defender services. The determination of what is reasonable is made in light of the client’s financial resources. A reasonable payment schedule is arranged with the individual. Payments are not made to the Public Defender but to the County’s Central Collections Bureau and only after the case has been concluded. The Public Defender is not involved in the hearing to determine a client’s ability to pay, billing or collections of fees ordered by the court.

No. The San Bernardino County Public Defender represents adults or juveniles charged with misdemeanor or felony crimes and persons facing involuntary civil commitment for mental disorders or commitment under the Sexually Violent Predator statute.

If you are financially able to afford an attorney, you may call the San Bernardino County Bar Association at 909-888-6791 . You can also speak with friends or neighbors who may know an attorney, or check the yellow pages.

The Public Defender does not provide representation for non-criminal cases. Please visit our Community Resources page for a list of legal aid organizations.