Yes it does seem like a dumb question, but since it's your first time you get a break. You will get individualized attention, if not right away, then at some point before you actually need it. Just ask to be appointed the public defender and then listen to your public defender's advice an you'll be fine. You can relax.
There will be a group arraignment. The 44 people may have the same charges as you and they may not. Here is what is going to happen.
1. Go inside the courtroom. The clerk will take roll
2. Either the judge will give you your rights. This may be done by video or audio depending on the courtroom.
3. The clerk will call the cases on calendar one at a time
4. Depending on the court - there may be public defenders and district attorneys there. There may only be public defenders or only district attorneys.
5. The norm is both PD and DA are in the room. The judge tell you your charges and asks you if you UNDERSTAND the charges. Not that you AGREE, just that you understand
6. The judge may ask for a factual scenario from the DA
7. Then the judge will ask you if you (a) Want to know what would happen if you plead guilty and/or (b) Would you like to speak to an attorney and/or (c) Can you afford an attorney.
8. If you want to speak to an attorney but cannot afford one - you can ask for one either when the judge asks you or at the beginning of the arraignment.
The above information does not establish an attorney client relationship nor is it meant to provide legal advice.
You are going in for arraignment, and yes, there are typically 40, 50 or 60 people on calendar on a given morning.
First, you will wait in line to check in, then be seated in the courtroom and wait for your name to be called. The duty Public Defender will speak to you for about a minute, and you will fill out forms to see if you are eligible for a public defender. You will then be interviewed about your finances, and a recommendation will be made about whether you qualify for a public defender.
Some time in the morning, you will be arrainged, which is where you stand up in front of the judge, verify your identity, acknowledge that you know what you are being charged with, acknowledge that yo are aware of your constitutional protections, and enter a plea.
You will then be given further court dates.
Two things to note:
1. If you have any type of income, and are appointed a public defender, you must pay back to the County the cost of the Public Defender. You will be given time, but you will pay.
2. If you hire a private lawyer, you typically do not have to appear at arraignment, and usually can waive many further appearances, if your lawyer is present.
On a matter like this, you should look into retaining counsel if time is an issue for you. Otherwise, count on being in court all morning.
Feel free to call my office to discuss further.
J. Emery Hand
619 796 3401
Good luck. J. Emery Hand rightshand.com 619 796 3401
It would be great if it were just you and the Judge and the DA at every court appearance, but there are always going to be many others on calendar for the same date and time. The other answers, though, are correct. You will have 'your time' with the court. That's the time to ask for the Public Defender. Best wishes to you.
Although I am an experienced CA criminal defense and appeals attorney, I can not 'guarantee' that my answer is entirely accurate, since I have not reviewed all of the factual circumstances of the case, nor have I discussed those circumstances fully with the questioner. The fact that I have answered this question does not establish an attorney client relationship between the questioner and my self or my office.