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Lake County, Ohio - Public Defender

Frequently Asked Questions



    How do I get an attorney if I cannot afford to hire one?

               Each court in Lake County has slightly different procedures.  However, in every case, when you appear in court, you will enter a plea of not guilty and you will tell the court that you want an attorney but cannot afford one.  The court will have you fill out an affidavit of indigency which will be reviewed to determine if you quality for our services. 

               If you qualify, the court will appoint the Public Defender’s Office to represent you, or in some cases, the court will appoint a private attorney to represent you. 

    What if I am guilty or I want to plead no contest, can I still have an attorney represent me?

               Yes, but you still must plea not guilty and ask for an attorney at your initial appearance in court in order for us to be assigned to represent you.

    Will the Judge get angry and punish me more harshly if I say not guilty and later admit that I was guilty?

               No.  In fact, the majority of all people who initially plead not guilty later change their plea to guilty or no contest to some charge.

    Can my attorney make me plea guilty even if I do not wish to?

               No.  Only you can make the decision to plead or to go to trial.  Your attorney can recommend that you take a plea bargain or that you go to trial, but the final decision is yours alone to make.

    What if I do not like the advice my attorney gives me, can I get another attorney?

               Generally, No.  It is the attorney’s job, as well as his ethical obligation, to give you the best advice he can.  It is not his job to tell you what you want to hear.  If your attorney advises you to plea or to go to trial and you disagree with him, that does not mean he is working against you.  It merely means that he is doing his job.

    What if I am able to afford an attorney?

                If you are able to hire an attorney, you must do so. 

                If you cannot afford an attorney yourself, but friends and family can do so for you, they can hire the attorney for you.

    May I choose the public defender I want to represent me?

                No.  If the Public Defender’s Office is assigned to represent you, we will decide which attorney handles your case.

                If the Public Defender’s Office cannot represent you, the court will decide which attorney is assigned to your case.

    What about bond and bond reductions? 

    The judge at your initial appearance and/or arraignment will set a bond.  The bond is designed to insure that you show up for court when required.  In the event you fail to appear in court, the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest.  In this event either your bondsman or a deputy sheriff could be sent out to arrest you.  Once the warrant is issued, any contact you may have with a police officer could result in your arrest.  If you are unable to make bond your lawyer may ask your assigned trial judge to lower the bond in an attempt to have you released from jail while your case is pending.  The amount of the bond set by the judge at the time of arraignment is usually based on the severity of the crime you're charged with, the extent of your criminal record and your ties to the community. 

    When do I get to speak with my attorney? 

                Your attorney will want to speak to you as soon as is practical after we have been appointed. 

                If you are in jail, call our office and ask the secretary to set a jail conference. 

                If you have been released on bond, call our office and ask to set an office conference.  

    Phone conferences may be set if an office conference is impractical for the client or the attorney, but face to face visits are strongly preferred.   

    What about hearings, must I be there? What happens?           

                Yes, you must appear in court at all hearings. 

                There are many types of hearings.  Some are informal, such as the pretrial where your attorney discusses the case with the prosecutor.  Other hearings may include in-court testimony of witnesses and legal arguments for the judge.  Your attorney can explain to you what will happen at each stage of your case. 

    Will I get to see the police reports and witness statements? 

    You may be permitted to review with your public defender attorney certain documents such as police reports and witness statements.  In some instances, however, due to a variety of factors, the prosecutor may restrict your ability to review the actual document.  This does not, however, prevent your public defender attorney from reviewing such materials with you.  Your attorney will strongly recommend that you not possess copies of such reports and statements, particularly when you are in custody in county jail awaiting the disposition of your case.  Confidential information about the specifics of your case can readily fall into the hands of unauthorized third-parties who may use the information against you.  It is in your best interest to have such sensitive material remain in the custody of your attorney whether you are in jail or out on bond. 

    What can I do to help my lawyer help me?

    If you are aware of potential witnesses who possess information regarding your case who you feel might be of help to you and your defense, be prepared to provide the names, addresses and telephone numbers of such persons.  Your lawyer will need to contact them in advance of any trial date to discuss with them their anticipated testimony.

    Do not discuss your case with anyone.  This would most definitely include any law enforcement officer or member of the prosecution staff.  If you are confined in jail, do not discuss your case with fellow inmates as it is not unusual for the police and prosecution to employ informants who could end up testifying against you.

    All inmate telephone calls are recorded!

    Be aware that any and all telephone calls made by inmates from the county jail are recorded and the sheriff’s department maintains a sophisticated database which enables the quick retrieval or such conversations.  Everything you say can and will be used against you.  Do not discuss the particulars of your case with anyone during a telephone call made by you from the county jail.

    Have no communication with the judge assigned to your case.  This includes communications by telephone and by letter.  It is always best to allow any communication regarding you or your case to come through your attorney.  He or she possesses the legal knowledge to determine what information should or should not be made available to your assigned judge.

    Please be on time. Tardiness reflects badly upon you with the court and in some instances could result in your bond being revoked. If your bond is revoked. you will be arrested and held in the county jail until your case is completed.

    What if I cannot make it to court when a hearing is scheduled?

    In the event you are ill or have other problems effecting affecting your ability to come to court, you must contact your attorney as soon as possible to see whether your case can be postponed and continued to another date.  Do not assume your attorney will be able to have your case rescheduled to a new date simply because you have called in asking for a postponement.  Understand that most judges require doctors excuses and/or some form of proof to substantiate a request for a postponement of your court date.  Last minute calls regarding sudden illness, car trouble and lack of transportation usually result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.

    What about drugs and drug testing? 

    You should also know that at any time while your case is pending, there may come a time when you are asked to provide a urine specimen to court officials to determine whether you are using drugs.  This would include controlled substances such as marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, crystal meth, heroin and other opiate based painkillers, amphetamines, and just about any type of illegal street drug.  These types of substances remain in a person's urine for varying amounts of time and may provide positive drug testing indications long after one has stopped using them.  A positive test can have adverse effects upon favorable disposition of your case and could result in your incarceration.  If you are using medication prescribed by a doctor, be prepared to prove it by presenting the original prescription vials in which such drugs were originally delivered to you. THEREFORE, DO NOT USE ILLEGAL DRUGS WHILE YOUR CASE IS PENDING.  IF YOU ARE USING DRUGS AND HAVE THE ABILITY TO STOP, DO SO IMMEDIATELY.  If you are drug addicted or have a drug problem, it is important for you to tell your attorney so that such difficulty is properly taken into consideration when making decisions regarding your case.  There is help available to those seeking treatment for a drug addiction problem.  We employ a social worker who is able to assist you in getting help with your drug or alcohol issues.