Palm Beach County

Office of the Public Defender - Palm Beach County

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Photo of the word FAQ

  • How do I apply for a public defender?
    In order to apply for the assistance of a public defender, you must fill out an application on your next court date or submit an application to the Palm Beach County Clerk's Office.

  • When will I speak with my attorney? If you are in custody, your attorney will visit you as soon as possible. Your attorney may also video conference with you. You may always call the office to speak with him or her.

    If you are not in custody, you can call your attorney to set up a time to have an office conference.

    Because court schedules vary, it is sometimes difficult to reach your attorney. If your attorney is not available, you should leave your contact information and the best times to reach you.

  • Will I have to pay for my public defender?
  • The law requires a $50 fee for appointment of a public defender. If this fee is not paid initially it will be assessed at the conclusion of the case. There also may be fees assessed for your lawyer as well as prosecution costs and court costs if you are found guilty. If you are found not guilty any fees you have paid can be refunded.

  • Will my conversations from the jail be recorded?
  • Your conversations with our office, if dialed directly from the jail, will not be recorded. Our office does not record your phone calls. However, the jail does record all other calls.

  • What do I do if I have a warrant?
  • If you have a warrant you must contact your attorney. If you are not assigned an attorney, please call the supervisor of the division (either County or Felony) Often judges will not withdraw a warrant unless you appear in court. Therefore, you should speak with your attorney and see what is your best option.

  • When will I be released after posting bond?
  • Generally, the jail will release you within a few hours of posting bond. The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office will process your release.

    If you are still being held in custody, it is likely that you either have another case that you need to post bond, a case with no bond, or an out-of-county/out-of-state case that has placed a hold on you to remain in custody.

  • What is OR or SOR pretrial release?
  • OR is a release from jail on your own promise to appear. SOR is supervised release that may be combined with a monetary bond. It requires regular reporting and compliance with any conditions imposed by the judge at First Appearance. Failure to comply with the reporting requirements or the conditions may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.

  • If I am not released from jail on a bond, where will I be housed?
  • There are two jails in Palm Beach County. One is on Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach and one is in Belle Glade. The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office has no specific policies on why people are housed in particular jails but there are some circumstances that would require them to house people in different locations. Some of those are: for the person’s safety to protect them from other inmates, for sentencing purposes, for access to different medical facilities, or to alleviate the large population at the Main Detention Center. You do not get to choose in which jail you are housed. For information about visitation or other policies at the jail, go to PBSO website.

  • What is “state to file” and “30 day return” mean?
  • Both of those phrases means the State has a certain period of time to choose to file formal charges. If they do not file charges within 30 days of your arrest, then the case is “no filed.” That means the State has not filed formal charges and you will be released on your own recognizance, without having to pay a monetary bond.

    However, that does not mean the case goes away. The State may choose to file charges within three months for misdemeanors or within six months for felonies. It is important that you keep a current address with the Clerk’s Office so you can receive in the mail any updates or notices of hearing. If your case is filed and you fail to appear, your release will be revoked and you may be held with no bond.

  • How do I find out who is my Public Defender?
  • You can use this website (Find my Lawyer), call the Office of the Public Defender at (561) 355-7500, or look up your case at https://applications.mypalmbeachclerk.com/eCaseView/

  • Can the victim drop the charges?
  • Once charges are filed only the State Attorney’s Office can drop the charges. However, if the victim does not want the case to go forward, the victim may contact the State Attorney’s Office and let them know he or she does not want to press charges. The victim may also contact our office and sign an affidavit stating as such.

  • When is my next court date?
  • To find out your next court date, call the Palm Beach County Clerk at (561) 355-2996, or go to their website and look up your case at https://applications.mypalmbeachclerk.com/eCaseView/, or call the Office of the Public Defender at (561) 355-7500.

  • Is there a plea offer?
  • Since each case is different, there may or may not be a plea offer. To find out, please speak with your attorney.

    If you do not know your attorney, please call the Office of the Public Defender at (561) 355-7500.

  • Will I get a copy of my discovery?
  • It is important that records of your case are kept confidential. In order to do that, it is necessary for your attorney to handle those records. If you would like to see the records involved in your case, please speak with your attorney.

  • What sentence am I facing if I am found guilty?
  • Each case is very different. The sentence would depend on the crime charged and any mandatory penalties associated with it as well as the facts of the case and any prior criminal history. Since each case is unique, it is important to discuss with your attorney the possible minimum and maximum penalty associated with your charge.

    Possible sentences include probation, jail time (sentence served at the county jail) or prison time (sentences served in the Department of Corrections).

  • What is a 2 hour call?
  • A 2 hour call means that your case is in line for trial. Essentially, it is an instruction from the judge that you and your attorney should be ready to proceed with trial with just two hours notice. Typically, that means there is another trial or another matter happening and the judge will move onto your case as soon as the earlier matter is finished.

  • What happens if I violate probation and have a warrant?
  • If you violate probation and have a warrant, you may turn yourself into the jail or contact your attorney immediately. You will be entitled to a hearing on the alleged violations.

  • How do I get my driver’s license back if it has been suspended?
  • Obtaining a license is a different situation for different people. Some may have a suspended license because of unpaid court costs. Some may have a suspended license because of a criminal conviction that has a suspension as part of the sentence. And some may be suspended because of child support issues.

    If you are assigned a public defender, please ask them for advice on how to obtain your license. If you are charged with driving on a suspended license, your attorney will see if you qualify for DUS Court, which is a special court set up to help people re-obtain their licenses.

  • What happens if I cannot pay my costs and fines?
  • You will be given an opportunity to set up a payment plan with the Clerk of Circuit Court. It is important that you keep up with payments or else your debt will be sent to collections. This adds a great deal of additional costs to your debt. Your license may also get suspended.

    If your costs go to collections for any reason, there are two ways to take them out of collections.

    First, your attorney can file a motion or have a judge sign an order taking the costs out of collections. This can only be done for a certain period of time to pay the costs. Therefore, it is important you take advantage of this opportunity, otherwise the costs will go back into collections.

    Second, you can write a letter to the judge or courtroom division where your case was handled. Speak with the Clerk of Courts about the specific case that is suspending your license, ask for the division it is in, and write a letter requesting that the costs be taken out of collections. The Clerk will set a court date, so it is important you keep your address up to date with them so they can mail you notice. Attend that hearing and explain to the judge that you want the costs out of collections. Be sure to dress respectably.

  • Can I do community service in lieu of fines and court costs?
  • You may in certain situations but it is up to the judge. Ask your attorney if he or she may help you set up your cases to be paid with community service or you may ask the judge yourself.

  • Can I change my attorney if I am not happy with him or her?
  • In the State of Florida, you are entitled to have the Office of the Public Defender represent you if you cannot afford to hire an attorney. This does not mean you are entitled to a specific attorney within the office. You will be assigned a qualified attorney based on your charges and the court division you are in.

    If you are unhappy with your assigned attorney, you should first try to speak to him or her about why you are dissatisfied and see if you can resolve the problem. If this is unsuccessful, please ask to speak to the supervisor of the division who will try to find an appropriate solution.

  • If I am sentenced to DOC, how long does it take for me to leave the county jail?
  • The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office has no set policy on when someone will be transported to DOC. Factors that affect when someone will be transported are: filling out the proper documentation, if the inmate has another open case, and if the inmate is housed at the West Detention Center. Typically the process takes two to three weeks.