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Legal Assistance

Legal assistance in jail is a crucial aspect of ensuring that individuals have access to their rights, a fair legal process, and representation. 

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Right to Legal Representation

Constitutional Right: In many countries, including the United States, individuals have a constitutional right to legal representation. This right is protected by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, ensuring that defendants have the right to counsel during criminal proceedings.

Public Defenders:

If you have not bonded out, the court will automatically appoint a public defender for you at your first court date, called your arraignment.

If you have bonded out and wish to be represented by a public defender, you must fill out an application and present it to the judge at your next court date. The Oklahoma County Public Defender's Office may be reached at 405-713-1550 for additional information.

FAQ About Public Defender and the process:

If I make bond can I still get a public defender?

Making bond creates a presumption that you are financially able to hire a private attorney. This presumption does not mean that you cannot get a public defender; it simply means that you must demonstrate financial need to the judge before he or she will appoint a public defender for you. 

 

How much money can I make and still qualify for the services of the public defender?

There is no fixed amount. When assessing your ability to pay for a private attorney, the court will consider all aspects of your current financial situation, including income, savings, assets, financial obligations, debts, and bankruptcies. If the court then decides that you cannot afford to hire a private attorney, it will appoint a public defender to represent you. 

Are public defenders real lawyers?

Yes. All public defenders have at least a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school and a license to practice law from the Oklahoma Bar Association. The average public defender in Oklahoma County also has over four years’ experience specializing in criminal defense, and all public defenders participate in continuing legal education seminars to stay current with developments in criminal law. 

Would I be better off hiring a private attorney?

If you can afford to hire a private attorney, you should hire one, because you are not entitled to the services of the public defender. Public defenders are experienced: they try more cases in a year than many attorneys try in a lifetime. Public defenders are also highly specialized: because they work exclusively on criminal defense in Oklahoma County, they have an unparalleled, intimate knowledge of the criminal justice system here. Private attorneys and public defenders go to exactly the same law schools, represent the same types of individuals, and produce similar results in the courtroom. Many private attorneys in this county have worked as public defenders, and many public defenders have worked in private practice. 

 

How do you defend someone you know is guilty?

Only a jury can decide whether an individual is guilty or innocent. Our job is to provide our clients with the best representation possible, to ensure that their constitutional rights to due process, a fair trial, and a competent defense are protected. 

  • Call the public defender's office at 405-713-1550.

  • Call the court clerk's office at 405-713-1705.

  • Look up the date on the Oklahoma State Courts Network

 

I've forgotten my lawyer's name. How do I find out who represents me?

Call 405-713-1550 with your name and birth date, and the public defender's receptionist will be able to tell you your attorney's name. If possible, please have your case number available as well.

Are all court-appointed attorneys public defenders?

No, when it would be impossible for the public defender's office to fairly represent an individual - a witness against a client, for example - the court appoints a private attorney, called a conflict attorney, instead of a public defender. 

What is a guardian ad litem?

Guardians ad litem are attorneys appointed by the court to represent children in domestic proceedings. Guardians ad litem are most often appointed in cases involving allegations of abuse or neglect. 

Appointment of Counsel: If an individual cannot afford to hire a private attorney, the court may appoint a public defender to represent them. Public defenders are attorneys who are employed or contracted by the government to provide legal representation to indigent defendants.

Caseload Challenges: Public defenders often handle heavy caseloads, and this can impact the amount of time they can dedicate to each case. However, they play a critical role in ensuring legal representation for those who cannot afford private attorneys.

Legal Aid Organizations:

Nonprofit Legal Services: In addition to public defenders, there are often nonprofit legal aid organizations that provide free or low-cost legal services to individuals in need. These organizations may focus on specific legal issues, such as criminal defense, immigration, or civil rights.

Residents needing legal assistance may qualify for free legal help through Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma. Please visit the Legal Aid website or call 1-888-534-5243, Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4

Pretrial Services:

Appeals and Post-Conviction Relief: Legal assistance is also crucial for individuals seeking to appeal convictions or pursue post-conviction relief. This involves challenging the legal validity of the conviction or sentence after the initial trial.

Access to Legal Resources:

Law Libraries: Some correctional facilities have law libraries or provide access to legal resources, enabling residents to research and understand their legal rights and options.
Legal Aid Hotlines: Residents may have access to legal aid hotlines or similar services that provide information and guidance on legal matters.

Post-Conviction Legal Assistance:

Appeals and Post-Conviction Relief: Legal assistance is also crucial for individuals seeking to appeal convictions or pursue post-conviction relief. This involves challenging the legal validity of the conviction or sentence after the initial trial.

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