Public Defender

Client Handbook


Your Right to Quality Representation

You Can Receive Help With Other Problems Related To Your Case

You Have A Team

Communicate With Your Legal Team

You Will Be Involved In All Decisions Related To Your Case

Please Contact Us If You Need Our Help In The Future



This handbook is for the clients of the Genesee County Public Defender's Office. Under the Constitution of the United States, you have the following rights if you are arrested:

  • the right to an attorney
  • the right to remain silent when questioned by the police

Your Right To Quality Representation

  1. You should be represented by a Public Defender's Office attorney at every court appearance after arraignment. The attorney assigned to your case will be with you for most of your court appearances, but it may sometimes become necessary for another attorney from the Public Defender's Office to represent you at a particular appearance if your assigned attorney is on trial or if a scheduling conflict occurs. If this happens, talk with the lawyer representing you on that day about any questions you might have. That lawyer will be familiar with your case and will be prepared to answer your questions and to represent you at that court appearance.

  2. You should have a brief discussion with your attorney about each court appearance, either before or after the appearance. You should ask questions about what occurred in court and make sure that you know when you are scheduled to next appear in court. You should never be left with questions as to what happened in court.

  3. Your attorney will help you prepare for each court appearance by advising you what is likely to happen. Be concerned about your case and ask your attorney what you might have to do in court and how you should dress.
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You Can Receive Help with Other Problems Related   To Your Case

The Public Defender's Office can assist you or refer you for assistance if you have a problem that arises out of your criminal case; please make us aware of the help you need. Some of the problems that typically arise:

  • loss of your job because of a criminal accusation
  • loss of public benefits because of a criminal accusation
  • abuse and neglect petitions in Family Court based on the same facts as in your criminal case
  • eviction from your home or your family's home because of a criminal accusation
  • deportation proceedings arising out of a criminal accusation
  • school suspension or expulsion because of an incident that led to an arrest
  • police seizure of your property, such as a car or money, based on a criminal accusation
  • injury during arrest or incarceration.

We may be able to assist you with some of these problems. If we cannot represent you directly, we can provide information on other resources. If you have a health problem or a problem with basic social services, tell us. Your attorney and our social worker can refer you to programs and services that might help. In some cases, we can refer you to agencies that provide emergency assistance with housing, clothing or other needs.

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You Have A Team

Everyone in the Public Defenders Office can be involved in your case. Our supervising attorneys have many years of criminal defense experience. Your team includes experienced staff attorneys, one of whom will be the primary lawyer working on your case.

We have a community worker who will conduct investigations, help out at trials, and work with you on problems related to your criminal case. Our clerical staff helps to coordinate the work on your case and is the team's anchor. They are the most accessible members of the team and can often answer your questions or get the information you need. Your team may also have an intern who will help with investigations and do research on your case.

All team members are prepared to handle most of your questions if your primary lawyer is unavailable.

We are committed to ensuring that you:

  • have on-going communication with your legal team
  • are involved in all decisions related to your case
  • receive quality representation
  • receive help needed with other legal problems that are related to your criminal case
  • receive our help in the future if you need it.

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Communicate With Your Legal Team

  1. You and your attorney will have a discussion of your case at the first opportunity. We make every effort to have this talk with our clients as soon as possible after we are assigned. Remember, the more information you can provide about your case, the more effective the defense will be.

  2. Tell us if you want us to send you copies of any court papers in your case. Many court papers have information that you may want to keep private, so we will not mail them unless requested by you.

  3. Your attorney will set up office appointments to discuss the case and to inform you of any developments. If you are in jail, communicating with you will be more difficult. Your attorney will make every effort to speak with you on the days that you are in court, or arrange to see you where you are being held.

  4. You can contact our office any weekday between 8:30 A.M. and 5:00 P.M., except on holidays. You may not always be able to talk to your attorney, but we will try to have an answer for your questions as quickly as possible.

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You Will Be Involved In All Decisions Related  To Your Case

Under the law there are certain decisions concerning your criminal case that only you can make. These decisions are:

  1. How to plead, guilty or not guilty. Your lawyers will provide you with legal advice to help you make this decision by telling you what they know about the prosecutor's case, outlining legal defenses, and strategizing with you about the possible results of each choice.

  2. Whether or not to testify. As the Constitution says, you have the right to remain silent. However, you can waive this right and decide to testify if your case involves a grand jury, a pre-trial hearing, or a trial. Your lawyers will assist you in your decision making, but the final decision is yours.

  3. Whether or not to have a jury or a judge decide your case. You have a Constitutional right to a trial by jury, except on very low level crimes. You can, however, waive this right and have your case tried by a judge. Again, your team will help you decide by explaining the issues in the case and the evidence that may be presented, but it's your decision.

Although there are certain strategic decisions in your case that your lawyers are responsible for making, your involvement and input are extremely important and you should be an active participant in the decision making process.

Even if you are in jail, you have a right to be present whenever any important event in your case happens in court. If you are in jail, you will be brought to court by the Sheriffs Department. If for any reason the Sheriffs Department fails to bring you to court, we will make certain that no important event occurs in your absence.

If you are not in jail, you must be present for every court appearance. We will advise you of the date and time of every court appearance. You must be in the courtroom at the time directed, even though the judge may not get to your case for several hours.

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Please Contact Us If You  Need Our Help In The Future

  1. Call us in the future if you need us. Remember, we are here for you. If you are ever arrested again, or if you hear that the police want to question you about a crime, you must CALL US RIGHT AWAY. From the moment you call us, we will do everything possible to protect your rights.

  2. If you are on probation or parole, call us right away if any problems arise. We might be able to resolve the conflict before it becomes more serious.

  3. If our office represented you on a case for which you were placed on probation and if you are charged with a violation of that probation, CALL US! We will represent you in any violation of probation proceedings.

  4. If you are arrested for a new crime while on parole and you are charged with a parole violation, we will represent you. That is why it is very important that you call us right away if you are re-arrested and are therefore charged with a parole violation.

  5. We believe in continuing representation. Just because the court case is over doesn't mean that your case is over with us. Please call us if you ever need our help again.