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303-764-1400 Applying for a Public Defender

What Does a Public Defender Do?

Handle Your Case

The Sixth Amendment to the United States’ Constitution and Article II, Section 16, of the Colorado Bill of Rights guarantee everyone the right to legal representation when they are charged with a crime. If you’re unable to afford an attorney, you have the ability to work with a court appointed attorney, called a public defender. The public defender will handle your case free of charge.  There is a $25 fee that may be assessed at the end of your case and can be waived by the court.

The Office of the Colorado State Public Defender works to ensure that all persons accused are able to receive quality legal representation, regardless of their financial means. This is an important safeguard that levels the playing field for individuals who are unable to pay for a lawyer.

The Public Defender Fights for Your Rights

The Office of the Colorado State Public Defender consists of a team of licensed attorneys, investigators, social workers, paralegals, and core administrative staff. They are independent from the court system and their job is to fight for your rights every step of the way. They will represent you throughout every stage of your case, and their goal is to provide you with quality legal representation that will achieve the best possible outcome to your case.

Your public defender will perform all of the same roles and responsibilities as a private attorney who would charge you for their services. This includes:

  • Representing you at your arraignment and bail hearing
  • Investigating the events associated with your case
  • Interviewing witnesses who may be called to testify during a trial
  • Filing motions to protect and preserve your rights including Motions to Suppress Evidence and, where appropriate, Motions to Dismiss
  • Negotiating a plea bargain on your behalf with the prosecutor, if that is your goal
  • Representing you in the event that your case goes to trial
  • Handling any appeals you may choose to file after your trial is resolved

Are you Eligible for a Public Defender?

Public defenders are appointed in situations where individuals who are facing jail time are unable to afford their own attorney. In order to qualify, you must demonstrate that your financial circumstances fall within the Colorado Supreme Court’s guidelines for appointment of counsel. The local public defender’s office will make an initial determination about whether you qualify for a public defender. The judge in your case then approves or rejects the determination.

Keep in mind that public defenders are only available to individuals facing jail time. If your criminal charge doesn’t include jail time as a potential consequence, then you must either hire an attorney or represent yourself.

Applying for a Public Defender

Who is the Defense Team?

The Office of the Colorado Public Defender employs a vertical representation model which means the attorney(s) assigned will handle every aspect of your case from start to finish. In more serious cases, there are often two or more attorneys assigned to your case who will work in conjunction with other professionals to create the defense team. All members of the defense team owe you the duty of confidentiality and will not share information about you or your case without your permission. The benefit of vertical representation is that your attorney(s) will be able to get to know you well enough to pursue your goals at all stages of the case.

If your case faces an appeal, it may be reassigned to an appellate specialist who will obtain information from your trial-level defense team to help pursue your appellate goals.