Stopped, Approached or Arrested in Florida?  Know Your Rights!

For more information please CLICK HERE for the Florida ACLU website.


In need of a Florida Public Defender? Read these important facts!

What's the difference between a private attorney and an attorney from the Public Defender's Office?

You pay a private attorney to represent you.  A court appoints a Public Defender attorney if you cannot afford a private attorney.

An attorney from the Public Defender’s Office is called an “Assistant Public Defender” or “Public Defender”. Public Defenders are lawyers who specialize in criminal law. All Public Defenders are attorneys who have passed the rigorous requirements of The Florida Bar to practice law in this state.

Public Defenders from the Public Defender’s Office can only represent indigent people charged with criminal offenses (felony, misdemeanor, criminal traffic, juvenile delinquency, or criminal contempt) or people held under the Baker Act or Sexually Violent Predator Act.

A Public Defender cannot represent you until the court appoints one to your case. Defendants must apply and qualify for the services of the Public Defender’s Office.

How do I qualify for a Public Defender?
You need to fill out an Affidavit of Insolvency which you get from the Clerk of Court or a Public Defender office. Once you have filled that out, it must be sworn to and turned into the Clerk’s Office to see if you qualify for Public Defender services.

If you are in jail, an Affidavit of Insolvency will be provided to you before your Initial Appearance. It is a crime to make a false statement on the Affidavit of Insolvency. It is important that you fill out the Affidavit of Insolvency completely and honestly.

Is there an application fee? Or any other costs?
Yes, the $50 Public Defender Application Fee was created by the Florida Legislature. The fee is not refundable and applies whether or not a Public Defender is actually appointed for you. However, if you do not have the money, you cannot be denied a Public Defender. The $50 fee can be paid (or payment plan arranged) at the County Clerk of Courts Office.

If you are found guilty, there could possibly be additional fees assessed for prosecution costs and court costs. If you are found not guilty, any of these fees which you may have paid will be refunded.

I just got arrested; what do I do?
If you attend initial appearance at the jail (which is your first appearance within 24 hours of arrest), you will be able to ask for an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office.

If you bond out before going to this initial appearance, you can fill out an Affidavit of Insolvency with the Clerk of Courts to get a Public Defender appointed. It is important that you make notes for your attorney about any witnesses (names and phone numbers), any evidence that needs to be collected, and any other issues regarding your case.

****It is extremely important that you do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone other than your attorney.

I have a loved one in jail; how do I get him or her an attorney?
If the person does not have an attorney and has not been appointed to a Public Defender, please call the Public Defender office in the county in which the incident took place. That office can set a hearing with the court to determine who your loved one's attorney should be.

Please keep in mind, however, that Public Defenders will not discuss the facts of the case with family members as that is confidential information that falls under the attorney/client privilege.  They will only discuss the facts of a case with the accused defendant after the court has appointed the Public Defenders' office.

CLICK HERE for a list of all Florida Public Defenders by Circuit