This is my first time getting in trouble with the law. The gist of it is that I haven't been informed on whether or not I need a public defender for the first court date, or what will happen on the first court date.
The jurisdiction is Washington County, if it helps.
A public defender is appointed by the court upon determining your indigent status, if not qualified you may request a continuance to find an attorney in your locale.
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Typically, at a first appearance you are arraigned (pled not guilty), advised of the charges against you, advised of your trial rights, advised if you face a real risk of jail entitling you to a public defender if you meet the financial requirements, and have bond/bail set. Most individuals who are summonsed to court would benefit from having counsel but it is not necessary. You should call the local public defender's office and seek their advice.
My response to your question is a generic response and should not be construed as controlling to your case. I can not effectively advise about your case without knowing all the facts. Additionally, my response does not create an attorney-client relationship. You can contact my office to schedule an appointment if you would like to have me represent you.
When you appear in court you will be asked if you have an attorney. If not, you will be questioned about your income level to determine if you qualify for a public defender. If you do, one will be appointed to represent you. There may be a public defender there to handle first appearances.
The way it works there (from my understanding) is that you will fill out an affidavit of indigence and give it to the court tomorrow. After the court has reviewed that, they will determine if you qualify for a public defender.
Also, it seems like you are talking about your arraignment tomorrow. Usually, a court will ask you what you would like to do about an attorney, and you will/should ask to either consult with one or apply for a public defender.
Please also keep in mind that anyone can view these forums. So do not talk about any specifics of your case.
This will likely be your opportunity to get a public defender. They will determine if you are eligible, based upon income level. Many states also require it be a "crime of consequence." That is a crime that could affect your freedom or your license to drive. If it is only punishable by a small fine you may not be eligible.
In Oregon, you are entitled to court appointed counsel if it is a crime punishable by incarceration or certain non-criminal matters such as dependency petitions. "Getting in trouble with the law" does not necessarily rise to the level of appointed counsel. Generally, the judge should act as a gatekeeper to inform you at arraignment, and if he/she does not, simply ask. In a very general sense, you should have an attorney on board as soon as practicable (even before arraignment) but that is not realistic for most people. I wouldn't make any statements about the case, as they can be used against you later on (and it is being recorded).
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