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.

Jail

Bail is money that some criminal defendants are required to deposit to guarantee that they will return to court if released from jail while their cases are pending. Although there are several exceptions, in general people arrested for an infraction or a misdemeanor must be released upon signing a written notice to appear.

Exceptions to this general rule include cases in which:

  • The arrestee requests to be brought before a judge
  • The arrestee refuses to sign a promise to appear
  • The arrestee is charged with a violation of a domestic violence protective order
  • The arrestee is severely intoxicated or requires medical attention
  • The arrestee has outstanding warrants
  • The arrestee fails to provide satisfactory identification
  • The release would jeopardize the prosecution of the offense for which the person was arrested
  • The safety of others would be jeopardized if the arrestee is released
  • The officer has reason to believe the arrestee will not appear
  • The arrestee is charged with Driving Under the Influence

Bail may be posted with cash, a cashier’s check or through a bail bond. A bail bond is a legal contract that requires someone to pay money if a defendant fails to return to court. It is guaranteed by the assets of the person who posted it, such as real estate, savings, or valuable personal property. To post the bail, money can be deposited with the Sheriff’s Department. For more information about how to post bail for your particular situation, call the Sheriff’s Department at (909) 350-2476.

At a bail hearing, the judge will set the bail amount according to the County’s bail schedule and in light of the circumstances of the arrestee’s background and the conduct with which he is charged.  The County of San Bernardino has a bail schedule guiding the amount of bail for the pertinent charges that is posted at sb-court.org. The bail schedule is a guideline, thus the actual bail set may deviate from the schedule.

An arrestee may be released on their own recognizance, or “released OR.”

If released OR, the arrestee may be required to submit to reasonable conditions of release. If a court agrees to release the arrestee OR, the court will require them to sign an agreement specifying their:

  • Promise to appear at all times and places as ordered
  • Promise to obey all reasonable conditions of the release
  • Promise not to leave the state without the court’s permission
  • Agreement to waive extradition from another state if it becomes necessary
  • Acknowledgement the arrestee understands the consequences of violating the conditions of OR release

Use the Inmate Locator to help you find a person in jail in San Bernardino County.

Learning that a loved one has been arrested is a painful and stressful experience. Uncertainty and lack of information about the process only makes things more difficult. The arrest process is complex; there are exceptions to every rule. But the following information can help guide you through the process.

People arrested by a law enforcement agency are taken for initial processing to the stationhouse of the agency in which the arrest occurred. Excluding holidays and weekends, the in custody arraignment must happen within 48 hours of the arrest: This will probably be the first time you will be able to see your friend or loved-one following an arrest. An arraignment is the court proceeding at which the arrestee is informed of his rights and the charges against him, he is given a copy of the charging document, an opportunity to enter a plea to the charges and bail will be set. The court will also set the next court hearing date at the arraignment. Arraignments are held in court but the arrestee may appear by video from either the West Valley Detention Center or the Adelanto Detention Center.

In the County of San Bernardino, each local law enforcement agency has different booking procedures.

Visit the Corrections and Detentions Bureau page of the San Bernardino County Sheriff for more information.

Police Interactions

If you have reason to believe you are under investigation by San Bernardino law enforcement, you should contact the San Bernardino County Public Defender by telephone at 909-382-7639.

Consultation with an attorney is important so that you can understand your rights, responsibilities, and the potential outcomes of any law enforcement investigation.

Most law enforcement investigators will understand and must respect your desire to first speak with an attorney. Any consultation about your own potential case with the San Bernardino County Public Defender will be completely confidential.

This Department will accept collect calls regarding San Bernardino County criminal or civil commitment legal matters.

Post-Conviction: Clear Your Record FAQ

The Public Defender Post-Conviction Relief Unit handles record-clearing services. Visit our Clear Your Record page to learn more and begin the process.

Post-Conviction: PC 290 FAQ

In 2017, California enacted Senate Bill 384, which changed 290 registration from mandatory lifetime registration to different tiers based on the person’s criminal record. Beginning January 1, 2021, there are now three tiers of registration for adult offenders:

  • Adult Tier 1: 10 year minimum registration period
  • Adult Tier 2: 20 year minimum registration period
  • Adult Tier 3: Lifetime registration

There are two tiers of registration for juvenile offenders:

  • Juvenile Tier 1: 5 year minimum registration period
  • Juvenile Tier 2: 10 year minimum registration period

YES. You must continue to keep your registration current and accurate. After completing your registration period, you will have the opportunity to petition the court to be removed from the sex offender registry. For your petition for removal to succeed, you must provide proof of your current registration with your petition.

Your commitment to keeping your registration consistent and accurate is the most important part of whether your petition will succeed. If you are eligible for removal, a good track record of registration will make it more likely a judge will grant your petition. If you have any questions about your registration, please contact the public defender in the county where you live and register. If you are unclear about any of the rules about your registration, ask your local public defender’s office or the law enforcement agency where you register.

Beginning January 1, 2021, you can request a tier notification letter from the law enforcement agency where you register.

Some offenders may be placed into a ‘To be Determined’ Tier until the California Department of Justice (DOJ) can correctly identify the person’s tier. DOJ then has up to two years to determine the correct tier. If you are placed in a ‘To be Determined’ Tier you may still be able to petition for relief.

If you register in San Bernardino County, you should contact the San Bernardino Public Defender’s Office Post-Conviction Relief Unit by calling (909) 387-7050.

The California Department of Justice also has Frequently Asked Questions available on their website, and they recommend that you contact the public defender with questions. The different rules that determine a person’s tier are complex. We recommend that you seek legal advice to help you answer any questions that you have about your tier, your registration period, or your petition for removal.

There are three tiers of registration for those with a sex conviction in adult court.

  • Adult Tier 1: 10 year minimum registration period
  • Adult Tier 2: 20 year minimum registration period
  • Adult Tier 3: Lifetime registration

There are two tiers of registration for those with a sex offense from juvenile court.

  • Juvenile Tier 1: 5 year minimum registration period
  • Juvenile Tier 2: 10 year minimum registration period

Your tier is based on your prior sex conviction(s).

Your registration period begins after your release from custody following your sex offense. This includes any civil commitment time after the offense. The clock for the registration period starts as soon as you are released.

There are two main reasons why your registration period may be extended:

First, if you were returned to custody after your release from the sex offense, that custody time does not count towards the registration period. The registration period is tolled or paused if you are returned to custody for a new offense of any kind that results in a conviction. The registration period is tolled or paused if you are returned to custody followed by a violation of probation, post-release community supervision, parole, or other supervision.

Second, if you are convicted of failure to register in violation of PC 290, that also adds time to your registration period. A felony conviction for failing to register adds 3 years to your registration period. A misdemeanor conviction for failing to register adds 1 year to your registration period.

For example, if someone is convicted of a Tier 1 misdemeanor offense, then they would have a 10 year registration period. If they are later convicted of a misdemeanor for failure to register under PC 290 and serve 30 days of custody time, that would add 1 year and 30 days to the length of their registration period. Their new registration period would be 11 years and 30 days, beginning on the day of their release from the original sex offense.

In order to be removed from the sex offender registry, you must file a petition pursuant to PC 290.5 with the court in the county where you register. An improperly filed petition may result in a denial of the petition and possibly a delay of 1-5 years before you can file another petition. It is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney in our Post-Conviction Relief Unit or other legal counsel before filing your petition.

The court may summarily deny a petition that has not fulfilled the filing and service requirements of PC 290.5.

Your petition MUST include proof of current sex offender registration.

Make sure that when reviewing the requirements of a PC 290.5 petition you are checking the version of PC 290.5 that is effective on July 1, 2021.

If your prior sex conviction was in adult court, then you file your petition for removal in superior court in the county where you register. If your prior sex offense is from juvenile court, then you file the petition in the juvenile court in the county where you register.

The court may summarily deny a petition that has not fulfilled the filing and service requirements of PC 290.5.

When you file your PC 290.5 petition for removal, the petition must be served on the following parties:

  • The district attorney in the county where you register
  • The law enforcement agency where you register
  • The district attorney in the county where you received your sex conviction
  • The law enforcement agency where you received your sex conviction

The court may summarily deny a petition that has not fulfilled the filing and service requirements of PC 290.5.

Make sure that when reviewing the requirements of a PC 290.5 petition you are checking the version of PC 290.5 that is effective on July 1, 2021.

You may file a PC 290.5 petition on or after your next birthday following July 1, 2021. You must have completed the registration period for your tier plus any additional tolling time.

It may take at least 4 months for a judge to rule on your petition. You MUST keep your registration current during this time. You are required to register until a judge has ruled in your favor and you are removed from the registry.

Law enforcement has 60 days after your PC 290.5 petition is filed to file a report with the DA and the court. The report assesses whether you have completed your registration period and are eligible for removal. Both the registering law enforcement agency and the law enforcement agency in the county of conviction, if different, prepare reports.

Within 60 days of receiving the report from law enforcement, the DA in the county of registration or the DA in the county of the prior offense may request a hearing in court. The DA may request a hearing if you have not completed your registration period or if community safety would be significantly enhanced by continued registration.

If the DA does not request a hearing, the judge shall grant the petition if all of the following are true:

  • Registration period is completed
  • Proof of current registration is attached to the petition
  • No pending charges that could extend the registration period or tier
  • Not currently in custody
  • Not currently on probation, parole, or supervised release

If the DA does request a hearing, evidence will be presented before the judge makes a ruling.

We recommend that you contact the public defender’s office in the county where you register or other law office to assist you in filing your petition.

If you register in San Bernardino County, you should contact the San Bernardino Public Defender’s Office Post-Conviction Relief Unit by calling (909) 387-7050.

Yes. If you register in San Bernardino County, you should contact the San Bernardino Public Defender’s Office Post-Conviction Relief Unit by calling (909) 387-7050.

We can help answer any questions about your sex registration, including your tier and your registration period.  We can also represent you by filing a petition on your behalf, if you are eligible, and represent you in court during the hearing.

The judge can consider the following:

  • The nature and facts of the registrable offense
  • The number of victims
  • Whether the victim was a stranger (known less than 24 hours)
  • Relevant criminal and noncriminal behavior before and after offense
  • Time period without re-offending
  • Completion of sex offender treatment program
  • Risk of re-offense

The judge may consider declarations, affidavits, police reports, or any other evidence that is reliable, material, and relevant.

If your petition is denied, the judge will set a time period of 1-5 years after which you can file another petition for removal from the registry.

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