How to Get a Public Defender Appointed on a Misdemeanor Criminal Case.

Broke and in big trouble? You may be entitled to have the judge appoint a Public Defender to help you if you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony.

When a Public Defender is appointed for a defendant, it is usually a great value. The Public Defender’s help is free or nearly free, and most Public Defenders are excellent Attorneys who know the court well. But there are some limitations to having and getting a Public Defender.

Here is how the court appoints Public Defenders to a criminal case.

What Is a Public Defender?

In a land far far away, a long, long time ago, a great Supreme Court decision ruled that all criminal defendants have a right to a “competent defense” which means attorneys help.  Now, anyone charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime has the right to an attorney and if the person cannot afford to hire a private Attorney, the law requires that the court appoint one to help the defendant at the public’s expense. When the Court appoints an attorney to help a broke defendant, they are called “Public Defenders”.

Public Defenders are real Attorneys, and are generally very good at what they do.  I spent three years with the Santa Cruz County Public Defenders office my self, and can say they do consistently provide great legal work and fight to protect rights.  Those defense daemons are in court everyday helping defendants in trouble, getting evidence suppressed, and they usually know the ins and outs of each courtroom, each judge, and every prosecutor.

Every county has its own Public Defers Office, or a contract with a private law firm to do the assigned work. Sometimes it is a division of the county, as in Santa Clara County. In other counties, such as Santa Cruz, the county has a contract with a law firm to provide Public Defender Services. In Riverside, the court just appoints private attorneys from an approved panel. Most of the time, the offices of the Public Defender are at or near the courthouse.

California Government Code Sections 27700-27709 require a county’s public defender to provide legal representation for indigent persons in certain circumstances.  These California statutes are really just a restatement of the requirements the US Supreme Court set for 5th Amendment Rights in the famous 1963 case of Giddeon vs. Wainright.  And in most jurisdictions, the Public Defender heads the county law office and Deputy Public Defender Attorneys which performs this task.

A person charged with a crime is a potential client, but they cannot just walk into the office and ask for a Public Defender’s help. A defendant must first get the Judge in their case to appoint the Office of the Public Defender to the case after a showing that the defendant cannot hire his or her own private Attorney.

How To Get A Public Defender

To get a Public Defender Attorney assigned, a defendant must appear in court first, and request one after the judge calls their case. The request can be made orally in court at any time, or on a local court form they use for a written request from the defendant. Both methods work.

Once the request is made, the judge is required to find out if the defendant is truly broke, and whether or not they can afford a private Attorney. In short, the court will check to see if the defendant qualifies for a public defender. Technically, a defendant must be “indigent” before a Public Defender can be appointed. The definition of “indigent” in this context varies from courtroom to courtroom.

Every county handles the financial qualifications for a Public Defender assignment differently, and there is no single rule on how much you can earn or have before you do not qualify for the Public Defender. In some counties, if you are unemployed, you qualify. In others, the requirements are stricter, and you must have no property to sell, no family to help, and no job.

Artist rendition of police transport

Ridin’ the Short Bus

In some counties, the qualification procedure is relatively simple. The defendant, once in court, makes a request, and the judge will ask several questions with the defendant under an oath to tell the truth.

The questions will include whether or not the defendant is employed, owns their own house and car, etc. Thereafter, the judge just makes a decision whether or not the defendant can come up with the money for a private Attorney.

In most counties, employment is enough to disqualify a defendant.  The court expects the cost of an attorney hurt.

If the judge decides to appoint the Public Defender, the assignment is made immediately in open court. One of the Deputy Public Defenders in the courtroom take the case file and begin with an immediate, hallway consult with the new client.

In other courts, or on felony cases, the process is more complicated. In some courts, the defendant must fill out an application form to see if they meet the financial qualifications. Then they may have to return at a later date to get their public defender assignment.

But no matter what court a defendant is in, the process is basically this: the defendant must go to court, make a request for a Public Defender, and then provide evidence that they qualify for a Public Defender because they cannot afford to hire a private Attorney.

For this reason, if you are going to attend a first court date and want a public defender, you may wish to bring documentation of your financial situation with you. Being prepared may help you avoid extra, unnecessary court dates to provide financial documents.

What sort of documents may help a defendant get a public defender appointment? Examples: proof of disability, proof of unemployment, proof of child support payments, etc.

Some Public Defenders Offices will answer simple questions from a potential client in advance of a court date, but generally they do not give detailed advice before being appointed. Contacting the public defender’s office prior to your court date and asking to apply in advance may help you get information on what you need to collect.

Most county Public Defenders do have web sites with good information, with one of the best being the Los Angeles County Public Defenders Office.

While Public Defenders are a great value and help to an indigent defendant, they do have limitations.

Some courts will charge a defendant for the Public Defenders worth according to what they can afford (as determined by the court). In some cases, this charge can range from $100, to $10,000, based upon the defendant’s ability to pay.

Public Defenders are also restricted to helping only on the case the court appoints them for, so if a defendant have multiple cases in different courts, several Public Defenders may be needed, instead of one private attorney. And generally, Public Defenders will not help with DMV problems or hearings. In DUI cases, this is a major limitation of the Public Defender’s services.

Instant Complete Warrant Search

Instant Complete Warrant Search

For Defendants without outstanding warrants, Public Defenders present a problem because they cannot be appointed until the defendant appears in court. This means the defendant must first be arrested, or get their own court date before getting help.

Usually, if a court denies the appointment of a Public Defender because the judge rules the defendant can afford to hire an Attorney, the court will give the defendant time to shop for a private Attorney. Dont be afraid to ask for more time if you need it to find a private attorney or to get the money to hire the Defense Attorney that you want.

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Questions? Leave a Comment.

About Attorney Christopher Dort

Public Interest Attorney. CA State Bar #196832. Licensed to practice law in California 1998, and then the US Federal District Court in 2000. Civil Litigation Trial Attorney (Insurance Defense Firms) 2000-2003. Private practice 2003 - present. First Solo Criminal Jury Trial 1998 (Santa Cruz County). First Civil Jury Trial 2002 (Orange County). Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office 1996-1999 (law clerk). BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, 1995. JD, University of California, Hastings, 1998.
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65 Responses to How to Get a Public Defender Appointed on a Misdemeanor Criminal Case.

  1. Isaac says:

    Hey Mr. Dort, I said on my arraignment for my recent first DUI that I wanted more time to afford an attorney. At the time I got the ticket I was unemployed, however I just got hired right before my arraignment. I don’t have enough cash flow to afford an attorney like I thought and my court date is two weeks. Could I get a public defender or should I go in an plead guilty and just start paying the fines? any help would be appreciated! thanks!

    • Isaac,

      If you cannot hire a private attorney, then the correct thing to do is to appear in court on time, and ask the court to appoint a public defender to your case. The court will then evaluate whether or not you qualify for a defense attorney funded by the county.

      DO NOT PLEAD GUILTY because you cannot hire an attorney. That would be dumb.

      People who walk into a DUI case of their own without an attorney and just plead guilty to the “sheet” get screwed. Why? Because DUI cases in california almost always involve 2 charges to start: VC 23152(a) and VC23152(b). When a defendant with an attorney pleads guilty, the attorney will normally negate a dismissal of one of the charges (usually the “a” count).

      If you just walk in and plead to the sheet, you will convicted on both charges, and you will suffer an extra misdemeanor conviction.

  2. Hi my name is mason stanfill and I was letting I guys know that I’m having a big fight with the court trying to but me on jail something I didn’t do and my uncle is in jail right now but I can tell u now he will not tell the truth of what he really did and I’m not liking it neither is my dad were both having hard times and I just can’t go to prison I’m to young so I’m asking y’all will y’all please help me and my dad out please and thank u if u could help us and here my phone number to contact us 702-762-0477

  3. helpme says:

    My husband was pulled over with my two kids in the car and he passed all the field tests but the officer said “the eyes never lie” so they took my husband to the station and he blew a 0.08. Luckily they let my relatives pick my kids up, my husband had a wet and wreckless 4 years ago and now he is being charged with DUI and child endangerment. We have had CPS visit our home and was told that we looked like “hard working people and that my husband made a mistake he definitely needs to learn from”. The social worker said she would write a good report and close our case. We live in CA, what can we expect as a sentence with all of this?

    • helpme,

      A 0.08% BAC driving under the influence case might be completely defensible. Sometimes those cases get not guilty verdicts after trial.

      But if you’re guilty, you are guilty. You might just want to keep your money by ending the case early before you rack up $10,000 in attorneys fees, expert witness fees.

      Then again, what have you got to lose?

      I cant answer your question. DUI w/ prior? ……. Depends on the court. Most first offenders get prob…. wait, this is not a first offense.

      Expect some jail time, 5 yrs probation, ignition interlock device requirements, and court ordered substance abuse classes. Loss of drivers license for 1 year (I am really guess here and telling you common outcomes), and if he was on probation at the time, driving with a suspended drivers license and no insurance, he may have to do some days of jail in the first case.

      What should he do? Shop around for a good defense attorney to get different points of view. A 0.08% BAC case is one lots of attorney might try to take to trial. If you can hire them to do it.

      If you (he) just wanted to plead guilty at the arraignment on the first day and get it over with, that is a $750-$1500 attorney’s fee to send an attorney in to do it for you so that you (he) can go back to work and avoid court. That is what I would say is a common fee.

      If you need a public defender, and qualify, you (he) should just show up at the arraignment on time, and ask the judge to appoint a public defender to help you (him). The judge will give you instructions from there.

      What about the DMV part? A public Defender will not help you with a DMV problem.

      REad my article on How to Get a Preview of your sentence before you plead guilty:

  4. Jennifer says:

    About 3 months ago I was caught shoplifting they put it down as shoplifting and burglary. From what the told me when arrested, it’s a felony. I received a document about my case and it says nothing about a felony just a misdemeanor. My court date is the end if this month. What will happen? Which one would it be? This is my first offense and my record is clean.
    Thank you for your help

    • Jennifer says:

      Also the total amount I stole was $226.00 .

      • Jennifer,

        The first thing I have to say is that if I am rude to you when you ask me a question for free, I’m really trying to help, dont take it personally.

        The second thing I have to say is that you are one of the dumb ones. I say that because you not only admitted you stole something in the comment outright, BUT YOU USED YOUR FULL REAL NAME!!!!!! Hello!!!!! Earth to Jenn!!!

        Fortunately for you, this happens all the time, and I removed your real name from public view. UR welcome.

        But what does all this mean? You are in a crap load of trouble, and you are not capable of handling it correctly yourself. You need to immediately hire a licensed, experienced criminal defense attorney to not only protect your future, but to protect you from you.

        If you cannot hire an attorney prior to your court date, you need to show up for your court date on time and apply for the public defender before you do anything or talk to anyone at all.

        If there is evidence you entered the building with the intent to steal, they can charge you with a felony burglary once you show up in court. You find out what the actual charges are in the Arraignment. Maybe only a misdemeanor if you are lucky, but you will not know for sure until the arraignment.

        Felony? What does that mean? It means you qualify for a free ticket to prison, and a tatoo that says “unemployed for life”.

        And that means you need to do everything you possibly can to get the best possible result in court.

        Hopefully you did not admit anything in a recorded statement. hope….

        Dont talk to anyone about this incident except a Defense Attorney that you hire or a public defender appointed to defend you by the court.

  5. Jeff says:

    I was recently arrested for DUI and blew a .08 into the breathalyzer. It is my first offense and I had never been arrested previously. The cops assured me at the station that in my county they almost always knock it down to a wet and reckless. Should I bother hiring an attorney? I was in an unfamiliar area and stopped late at a stop sign, and was not in danger of causing any accidents.

    • Jeff,

      The prosecutor is not going to reduce the charges automatically for you. They want a conviction to impress their boss, and they will not talk to you unless you have an attorney.

      Without an attorney, you will have absolutely zero opportunity to workout a plea agreement with the prosecutor.

      Jeff, I also have some bad news. The police were not being honest with you.

      Now if it turns out that you should up and there is some obvious defect in the case that would prevent a conviction, if you are lucky, an honest prosecutor will seen it and fix it. But I sure as hell would not count on that.

      When you are charged with a crime (that’s what happens after the handcuffs) the prosecutor is not your friend. They are not acting in your best interest. Neither are the police. They will say whatever they need to in order to keep you from crying a barfing on their seats.

  6. Fran says:

    Hi. I am 39 years old and was caught sholifting with my two daughters. One is 18 and the other is 12, therefore, I was charged with Child Endangerment along with the shoplifting. I am unemployed and my husband only works part time at this time. I can not afford a lawyer and was wondering if a Public Defender would be able to fight and win this case for me. Yes, I am guilty of shoplifting and my children were with me but I would like the Child Enangerment charge to go away if possible as I am seeking employment with my local school district. Please give me some advice. Btw…this the first (and last) time I’ve been in trouble with the law.

    • Fran,

      Make sure you show up to the court date on time, and ask the court to appoint a public defender to represent you before you make any decisions.

      • Fran says:

        I’ve already been to court and they have given me the paper to call a public defender. I called but they said to call back in a week to find out who I have been assigned to. In the meantime, I was wondering if a Public Defender will be able to help get these charges to a lesser charge or something similar.

  7. Christopher says:

    I’m 21 and live in San Luis Obispo and was arrested two weeks ago for a drunk in public while I was downtown outside of a local bar. It was 2 a.m. and I was calling my friend to come outside so we could leave when I was arrested. I had had a few drinks but I felt I was wrongly accused so I refused to sign the ticket without speaking to my sister first (she’s in her third year at law school), in which they replied “yeah everyone tells us that.” I was not breathalized or given any tests. They handcuffed and brought me to jail where they put me in a cell by myself with the AC blasting and the floor dyed yellow from urine. It was disgusting and I was not read any writes or given a phone call. I was wondering if I have a case because they slapped me with a $470 bill which I can’t afford because I am on student loans and currently unemployed.

  8. Timmy says:

    Back in October 2012, I was charged with a Misdemenor for discharging firearm in public. I admit I was a little tipsy and was not thinking at the time. There was no witnesses, I was pulled over and arrested by an undercover cop car for fleeing from the scene(probable cause) after they heard shots. Its my first charge and I cant afford an attorney. Btw i pleaded not guilty and my trial date is set up for next year Jan 7

    • Timmy,

      If you have a jury trial coming up in a few days on a criminal case, you need to get a Defense Attorney to represent you immediately. If not, I predict you will be completely railroaded by highly trained, and highly paid prosecutor(s). Your chances of winning a criminal jury trial on your own are about zero.

  9. Kimvenzor says:

    I was recently arrested for a first DUI in San Francisco, CA. Me and my friend were on our way back to my house on 280 and did not realize that the exit was shut down for maintenance. When we realized that it was, I crossed over so that the next exit would be Ceasar Chavez. I hit a couple of cones and CHP pulled me over. Before I was given the breathalyzer test I was burping a lot. I do not remember exactly what I blew, but I know it was way over the limit. I currently am not working and was wondering if I had a good chance of not getting a conviction or getting it down to a lower charge through a public defender.

  10. Christopher says:


    Last month a few of my friends were partying in manhattan. Once the night ended will all went back to my friends apt in Chelsea. Before entering the apt, we had our own little party on the front stoop of my friends house. Before I know it cops came from a NYC taxi and called me to the street. They saw me do a line. They searched me several times, but I didn’t have anything on me. Here is the kicker. The person who offered it to me, got scared and threw the bag on the ground, only 10ft away from me. They charged me with a 220.03. This is my first arrest ever! Never ran into the law untill now. Is ACD possible? There were 8 or so people on the stoop. Can I get it dismissed? I have no money, broke, car payment etc., what do I do?

    • Christopher,

      Partying in Chelsea and broke? Cops pop out of a NYC Taxi? I dont believe the story. And I am not qualified to answer. I might have to ask NY Douglas for input on this one. Maybe he can send you to some public defender info. Or at least tell you about the same exact thing that might have not happened to his friend(s).

  11. Manny says:

    I was recently pulled over for driving 103 in a 60 mph zone. I wasn’t street racing or anything I was simply trying to make an appointment on time after being stuck in stand-still traffic. I was given a speeding ticket, reckless driving ticket, an endangering a minor charge, since my 16 yr old sister was with me, and told to appear in court on a set date. I’ve been pulled over before for going 15 over the posted speed limit (Didn’t see the speed limit sign) but other than that I haven’t been in trouble before. I’m a Pharmacy student and I don’t have the extra money to hire an attorney since my parents aren’t helping me pay for college, what should I do?

    • Manny,

      Sounds like you are guilty. At least you did not even claim to be innocent. But endangering a minor is a real crime that can really screw you up.

      If you could hire a private attorney to defend you, that person whould probably be focused on trying to save your drivers license and trying to prevent misdemeanor convictions.

      What should you do?
      Make a trip to coin star and the local pawn shop to see if you can get the money together for a good private defense attorney.

      If not, show up in court on time. Once in court, apply for a public defender appointment and tell the judge you cannot hire an attorney of your own choosing.

      Make sure DMV has your current address at all times.

  12. Daniel says:

    I was tailgating at a concert, and i had just started drinking, i had one sip of a four loco and 4 under cover cops came up and cuffed me and my friends. They then searched all of us and found my fake ID. I got two tickets, one for underage possession and consumption and the other for possession of false identification. I wasnt drunk and this is my first offense. My record has been clean up to this point, im 18 years old and this happened in Columbus. Ohio. What do you think my consequences will be? Im really scared that i might get jail time, is there i chance i wont? Thank you

  13. nick says:

    Can a judge deny me a public defender on a drug charge if I’m UN employed in the state of Texas..

  14. Daniel Diaz says:

    I live in Palo Alto, California. I’m 19 years old and I was recently charged with posession of acohol. I want to know what can I do for this charges to not go into my record other than getting a expungement. Also can i meet up with a public defender so I can have a few questions answered before my court date? Thank you

  15. tmt says:

    I recently got a DUI. I was very compliance with the officer. I blew 4 times and saw that I got 0.08% BAC in one of them. I want to get a public defender. My court date is not till OCT. Can I call the court to ask if I’m qualify for public defender now? (today is August 31t)

    • TMT,

      Usually, you can only apply for the public defender at your first court appearance (arraignment).

      If you want a Defense Attorney to Start working on your case right now, you have to hire a private attorney with your own money.

  16. Belle says:

    I recently threw a drink at another driver while I was passenger in a different vehicle. We were on a family vacation and this other driver continued to provoke us on the road by not letting us merge, flipping us off, and laughing at us when I yelled stating our 2 year old daughter was in the car. I eventually had enough and threw my drink at him. He ended up calling the cops and we got pulled over. I threw a typical soda you would get from a drive thru and they had multiple witnesses stating they saw me. I denied the accusations at first but then later implied I did throw the cup, since I had done so in a very public place and they found out exactly what type of cup it was and from which fast food place it was from. He then accused my fiance ( who is on probation) for waving around a knife, which never happened. We did have safety knives located in our vehicle. They did not arrest any of us because I think they were somewhat sympathetic to our situation; however, the individual is pressing charges. What can we expect out of all of this? I really don’t want either of us going to jail but then again we cant afford lawyers. I heard of public offenders but is that our only option? I have a clean record and hope to only get fined, but how bad would the charges be?

    • Belle,

      This is like a bar exam question.

      OK ready? 6 Min. I.R.A.C.


      1. Was throwing the drink out the window criminal assault?
      2. Was it a criminal Battery?
      3. Child endangerment?
      4. Littering misdemeanor?
      5. Can safety knives in a car qualify as an illegal concealed “dirk or dagger”?
      6. Was there enough evidence of an assault with a deadly weapon to support the start of charges?

      Possible Defenses to consider below:

      1. “people laughing at me”
      2. “refusal to let us merge”
      3. “flipping us off”
      4. “knife waiving did not happen”
      5. Driver was not close enough to alleged victims to cause a reasonable fear of stabbing, and therefore no Assault w/ DW as a matter of law
      6. Unlawful Detention in violation of the 4th Amendment? (officers did not see alleged illegal acts.)

      Additional notes:

      Individual pressing charges (?)
      “Public Offenders [sic]“?
      “How bad will the charges be”?
      Driver on probation
      No one arrested
      Child not taken by CPS
      Car not impounded

      !5*&! Crap!!!! I ran out of time.

  17. Trey says:

    I am from Washington. So me and my friends were smoking marijuana at the end of a street (stupid i know). And a police officer pulled up behind us. He asked us to open the window and then asked if we were smoking. I am 18 years old and have never been in any sort of trouble with the police. My friend said yes and then the police officer asked for the pipe. My friend gave it to him and claimed it as his own while also claiming that the marijuana was his. The cop then took us out and questioned us. I (so very stupidly) admitted that I had taken a hit or two and said it was my 3rd time smoking. The cop seemed pretty nice and after we were put in the car and then got out, he told us that we should all plead not guilty on our court date. Right now I am trying to decide whether it is worth it to get a lawyer instead of a public defendant since there doesn’t seem to be much of anything I can do to get out of this. What would you suggest I do?
    Thank you for your help,

  18. This is all something that should probably be taught in high school. I remember back in my younger days I remember kids getting in trouble, and having absolutely no idea how anything worked. This is very helpful information, because not everyone has thousands of dollars laying around to spend on a lawyer. It’s also very helpful to know that Public Defender’s can be skilled, because I know my first knowledge of Public Defender’s were in My Cousin Vinny, and that movie did not show a good image of them.

    • DortLaw says:

      In some neighborhoods they should teach it in ____school [insert your own joke].

      That is a great movie.

      Vinny Gambini: I object to this witness being called at this time. We’ve been given no prior notice he’d testify. No discovery of any tests he’s conducted or reports he’s prepared. And as the court is aware, the defense is entitled to advance notice of any witness who will testify, particularly to those who will give scientific evidence, so that we can properly prepare for cross-examination, as well as to give the defense an opportunity to have the witness’s reports reviewed by a defense expert, who might then be in a position to contradict the veracity of his conclusions.
      [there is a short pause as Judge Haller appears caught off-guard by Vinny's sudden compentence with knowledge of the law]
      Judge Chamberlain Haller: Mr. Gambini?
      Vinny Gambini: Yes, sir?
      Judge Chamberlain Haller: That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.
      Vinny Gambini: Thank you, Your Honor.
      Judge Chamberlain Haller: [firm tone] Overruled.

      Share this quote

  19. Taylor says:

    I was charged with a minor in consumption over the weekend. The cops showed up to our party and busted just about everyone. I blew a .071. I wasn’t given a written citation or ticket (I don’t know if that matters) but I was told I received a minor and that I would be contacted with my court date whenever they got around to it. I’m nineteen years old and this is my first minor and I’m not sure if I qualify for a public defender. What I’m wondering is is there anyway I can make a plea bargain where I don’t get into trouble for a year, and when I succeed that can I get this minor sealed? It was a mistake I take full responsibility for. I am a psychology major and I feel this conviction will cause me more then a few problems in my future..

    • DortLaw says:


      I dont know what a “minor in consumption” is. I get stuck on details like that. Where you hiding a minor in a keg? Did you have a minor in your beer? Where you eating a minor? Maybe it is a term I dont recognize because it is a different jurisdiction than I am used to.

      Doesnt matter. I get your point. Will it screw you up later in life?

      Assuming it is a non violent misdemeanor charge – like contributing to the delinquency of a minor – a no jail result is possible. And so is a plea agreement that results in a reduction to an infraction or a dismissal. Maybe even diversion is possible (disposition without a conviction after some sort of probation).

      Rule #1: dont make it worse. Show up to court on time if they tell you to. Make sure the court has your current address at all times.

      If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you should talk with an attorney in detail about your case. If you cannot afford to hire a private attorney of your own choice, ask the judge to appoint an attorney to represent you. The court has applications for court appoint attorneys in the courtroom.

  20. Pete says:

    I recently found out I have a warrant from ’98, for not completing my Community Service. Im curious on what my punishment might be & how to get it fixed w/o having to do community sevice. Would it benefit me to have Counsel for my court date.

    • DortLaw says:


      This is a great question. Finally.

      A warrant for not completing community service to you, sounds like this to me:

      Defendant was charged with a probation violation. Probation was revoked. A warrant was issued so that Defendant shall be brought back into court for re sentencing on the original charge and then on probation violation.

      Yes, you should have a an attorney. Taking voluntary action will help you avoid the worst consequences. In many warrants cases (misdemeanors and such) an attorney can get a warrant case resolved witout the client ever having to go to court at all.

      But there is also a possibility of jail. You screwed up probation after all. That’s a bad fact.

      Some judges – and this is not that unusual – will add 10 days of jail time for every year that the warrant is outstanding. So in your case, that looks like 140 days, plus whatever you get for the re sentencing and such.

      In some counties, that might be a real 140 days. In other counties, it might mean 1 strip search and 3 meals of SOS. And an ankle bracelet.

      In some cases, if you send a good attorney who knows what they are doing, you might just get a phone call after court from the attorney that says: You have 180 days to complete 2x original community service work.

      But if they catch you first! . . . .bad things will happen to you.

  21. Amanda says:

    I rear ended a person in bumper to bumper traffic and the officer discoverd my license was suspended for nonpayment of a speeding ticket. I sent in a request for a trial date for the speeding ticket but apprantly didn’t mail it in time before my license was suspended. I was cited for driving with a suspended license and following too closely to another car. The officer said I have 5 days to report myself to the court or a bench warrant will be issued. I don’t have enough time I feel to find a lawyer by then. Do you think when I show up in the 5 days that this will be the actual trial? Or is this just a hearing to see how I am going to plead and then a court date is set. If it is a hearing to see how I will plead, do i need a lawyer for that or can I request the judge to give me time to find a lawyer? I’m freaking out about the possibility of going to jail and/or having a crime on my record. I live in MD. Thanks, Amanda

  22. Ricky says:

    Also, I was thinking of whether i should just plead guilty or get a public defender to see if I can get any sentence possibly reduced.

  23. Ricky says:


    I recently got charged with battery for throwing water balloons out of a moving vehicle at random people just for the hell for it (yes immature, I know). The cops apparently saw the whole thing and stopped my friend and I (he drove, I threw). I’m planning on pleading guilty, since the cops witnessed the whole thing. I was wondering what kind of sentence/fine I should be expecting, and if there’s any way to prevent the whole thing from going on my record, as I am currently unemployed and having a misdemeanor for battery would make it harder to actually find work. I am in CA and I know the maximum sentence is $2000 and/or 6 months in jail, but I have a hard time believing that they will actually going to give me the maximum, as this is my first offense of any kind and no one was actually hurt, just wet. I eagerly await your response. Thank you.

    • DortLaw says:


      I cant tell you what your sentence is going to be – because 1) it is unlikely that I am gong to be your judge; and 2) because I have a feeling the prosecutor’s side of the story is going to be different than yours.

      Actually, maybe not. Seems like you admit the act.

      Yes, throwing water balloons is in fact a battery. If there were multiple throws, you could have a chit load of battery charges.

      You got the max sentence right for a misdemeanor battery. For one balloon. How many did you throw? Are you guilty of polluting the delta with little tiny shards of poisonous rubber for the birds to eat? Are you one of those idiots jacking up the salmon streams and killing off their spawning grounds also?

      Nonetheless, it would be dumb to just walk in and plead guilty without talking with an attorney who is there in court with you.

      The best option is to hire a private defense attorney to represent and defend you. And to pay them enough money so that they want to focus on your case and stuff all of the other files under their desk for a few days.

      Next best option is once you are in court, ask the court to appoint a public defender and fill out the application forms. If you are unemployed and have no income, you probably qualify for a public defender appointment.

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  24. Karli says:


    My Husband and I got into a really heated arguement one day. I had went to tell my mom that this was the worst one and he is getting out of control. So she called the cops on him, and they came in my house with guns. So i was scared and shaking really bad. Of course they questioned my husband asking if he had beat me, he said not. My husband has never hit me in anyway, but of course the cops don’t believe me. I told them he had just moved me out of the way and he ripped a shirt ( i was not wearing the shirt). They arrested him and charged him with domestic violence. When they arrested him, they did not read him his right and just took him off. My husband told me before they took him away they had ask him if he had a car. Making it seem as if he could leave for the night or something. We just moved from maryland so we don’t have anything no car or money. My husband doesnt deserve that charge so what should i do?

  25. Rosie says:


    I was charged misdemeanor for MD statute section 5-801 -A person who is charged with the care of a child under the age of 8 years may not allow the child to be locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent and the dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle is out of the sight of the person charged unless the person charged provides a reliable person at least 13 years old to remain with the child to protect the child.
    I left my 3 kids ages 11, 4 and 2 yrs. old at Target parking lot because I had diarrhea attack and needed to go fast!!!! I had no intention to leave them unattended, I would have bring them along but the problem is my 2 yrs. old was sleeping and I got no time to wake him up since I really got to go. I thought it should be o.k. since my 11 yrs. old was in the car with my 4 and 2 yrs. old and I came right out after done. I walked out and saw cop’s car parked behind my car and my jaw was dropped. When I walked to the car, my 11 yr. old son told me that the car next to mine called the cops. The cop told me it was against the law to leave kids in the car unattended and I got that well. I told the cop that I had to go to bathroom bad, I would have made a huge mess if I tried to get my sleeping child out of the car since he will throw a fist. I even had to go again while the cop wrote me citation, he told me it was o.k. to go to the bathroom he’ll keep an eye on the kids. He told me the penalty for the charge could be maximum of $500 fine or 30 days jail time or both. He told me to get lawyer or public defender. I’m not working and I’m scared of the charge since I never done anything like this. What’s your opinion?

  26. DortLaw says:


    I just read the first two sentences of your comment. Completely useless info. Who cares how old you are and how long you have been with your partner, and how courteous you are? Who cares?

    ohhhhgh… do I bother reading the rest of it? It looks really long.

    OK. I’ll try but if the next 2 sentences are useless info too, I’m giving up.

    “We are cooperative, honest and this event was a turning point in our relationship and lives as well. ”

    OMG!!!! Barf!

    you have 1 sentence left to catch my free attorney time.

    “We deffinitely learned a lesson. ”

    Nope . . . . sorry. you lost me.

    I recommend you hire me for an Attorney Conference where you can pay me to listen to this.

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  27. Chels. says:

    I also forgot to add in that the campus police reported to us that a witness saw my boyfriend hit me. And that is why they came over. But me and my boyfriend were already in the process of resolving our conflict.

  28. Michael says:

    Here it goes.. I’m 18 years old and got charged with burglary, possesion of a controlled substance, and possesion of marijuana. Here’s my story. My friend had planned to steal from a store.. Very stupid. Anyways, he had went in to the store, set a few things up, came to my car and told me to have my car ready he will be right back. So I have my car waiting and he comes running back with tons of clothes in his hand and an employee chasing after. I see what is going on as he throws everything in the back seat of my car when I take off and head towards the highway where I get pulled over for speeding as I was getting off of the highway for going 86 in a 65 I believe. The chp officer was quick to ask where I was coming from and I told him getting lunch and I was heading back to work.. Which is true. He asks if were sure bout that and if we’re coming from del monte shopping center at Macy’s, when he opens up my back seat, which has blacked out tints and u can not see through and he asks who’s clothes are they, and if they normally have ink tags on them. I did not give permission to search my car, and the cop detained my friend immediately after and called for local cops to arrive where they started to look through my car tearing it apart before even asking if they could search my car. Shortly after they detained me and placed me in the back of the car when they had asked me if they could search my car I said go ahead, thinking they already were so why even ask? They found a grinder with marijuana residue at the most, yes I’m a smoker.. And they searches my car and found these pills I’m not exactly sure what they were but figured it was worth some money as my friend gave them to me to hold onto as collateral. I believed he said something about a Percocet as he was talking about them earlier. I was arrested on site and they did not allow me to call someone to move my car so it was towed. I was released later that afternoon and was given a court date. I do not have a job, nor have any assets that accumulate to over $1000 besides clothing and my phone that’s about it. I don’t have a job, and I don’t know what to do how should I go about this situation. My court date is next moth in June and I do not want a criminal record as I want to become a correctional officer one day, I would do anything to avoid this. Please let me know what I should do or if you have any advice at all. Thank you.

    • DortLaw says:


      I dont have much good news for you. You need a skilled attorney. But without any money, you just have to apply for the public defender once in court. Do you have any family that can come to the rescue? Any friends who want to spend their savings on your criminal case?

      I think you have to give up on the correctional officer dream. That’s a little weird given the fact that you are on your way to prison. Everyone in prison wants to be a correctional officer. Of course you’d rather be the inspector instead of the stripeee. Blue instead of Orange. duh. Honestly, you are not smart enough yet to have a real responsibility like that. Hopefully you will live long enough to get smarter.

      The marijuana is not really a problem. The rest of it? Felonies.

      OK- even on these horrible facts, I can offer some free real attorney advice:

      Dont make it worse. Show up on time for all required court appearances. Assuming you do get a public defender, tell them everything, and do what they tell you to do. Stay organized, keep copies of everything. Read all of the court papers. Treat solving this problem as if was the most important think in your freedom loving life.

      And get some more intelligent friends. Choose people with jobs, their own clothes, and their own cars. Taxpayers are usually good.


      Schedule an Attorney Conference online.

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  29. Brittany says:

    Hi Christopher, I was caught shoplifting last month & I have a court date at the end of this month. It is a misdemeanor 484(a)pe petty theft . With all the many excuses I could give, the real problem here is that I think I may have some sort of self destructive kleptomaniac tendencies (please laugh, not everyone will admit to that). Of course I did not tell that to the people at the store or the police officer. I stole a face mask (im retarded) I also purchased other facial products & had the money to pay for the item i stole, he took pictures of everything including the money i had in my wallet. I am a 28 year old self employed woman. I work for myself & I dont make that much money. I live with my dad, I own my own car. I cooperated with the people at the store but respectfully did not give the officer a statement. I am wondering if they would even consider giving me a public defender, what I could and should plea. It would be nice if my case could get me some help as opposed to paying fines, but of course I am being very hopeful. Do they have a determent program for adults? If I went & got county counseling would that help my case? And do I have any hope of getting this off my record, I am planning to go to school to become a vet tec & im sure everyone will background check me. I have a past record from when I was 18 for drug possession & a weapons charge, but it was all dropped to a misdemeanor.(it sounds much worse than it was, I had a gardening tool that they said was a Japanese throwing star & paraphernalia) I haven’t gotten it expunged. Since then nothing, just a bunch of bad judgement on my part. Looking on the bright side, at least people don’t get their hands chopped off for stealing in this great country of ours.
    many thanks for any help you could give me

    • Brittany,

      You may qualify for the Public Defender. Show up in court on time, ask for one, and go from there.

      Yea, I know people steal things sometimes for biological reasons. Sometimes married people cheat on their spouses, hoping to get caught.

      What you have is a self destructive gene. The Sether? You’re probably pissed off about something else. Forcing a change. Forced change is still change. Time to burn the bridges, get out of dodge maybe? It happens. None of my business.

      The court is not going to offer you counseling. They dont have the money or resources. You can get yourself into counseling and offer it as mitigation if needed.

      I guess it can be a term of probation if you ask for it. But they will make you pay for it.

      In your county there probably is some sort of diversion program that may include some sort of classes. But I cant tell.

      Punishment can be great behavior correcting therapy.

  30. AH says:

    My husband lives in San Diego. I live in Canada temporarily (i’m a Canadian citizen but have a US Greencard.) On Saturday night, my husband went through a traffic checkpoint and they made him do a breathalyzer test. He blew 0.081. They then took him into their portable trailer? and made him blow again and he blew a 0.1. He got arrested for drunk driving and spent the night in jail. Posted bail for himself in the morning and has a court date for May 10th.
    Is that level borderline enough to qualify for a wet reckless plea bargain?
    And if so, is it necessary to hire an attorney?
    My problem is that we have a wedding ceremony planned for this August…in Canada. Canada is very strict on Drunk Driving and people with DUI convictions, or even pending cases are considered inadmissable. This won’t only affect his travel this summer, but for the next 5-10 years. Since all my family is here, that’s a problem!
    There are options to getting into Canada, such as the Temporary Resident Permit, but I’m concerned that that will only be a limited, possibly one-time option.
    Any help or advice?

    • AH,

      This is a great question.

      0.081 is barely over the legal limit. And nearly all forensic toxicologists will testify that those breath testing machines have an error rate of 0.02% (some defense oriented experts in my contact list will testify they can have error rates as high as 0.05%.

      Do you know what that means? That means he might be factually innocent. Or he might be not guilty. He might be able to win a trial with a skilled attorney.

      Lets see – was there any evidence of bad driving? . . . . Checkpoint? = no evidence of bad driving.

      This might be a defensible case. And it looks like you have a lot riding on it.

      Yes, you should definitely hire a defense attorney to try to get the best possible result on the case. But you need the kind of attorney who knows how to win a winable trial – not an everyday “I hate going to court” dump truck attorney.

      A plea agreement for a reduced charge is certainly a possibility – but the prosecutor has to be talked into it based upon weaknesses in the government’s evidence.

      A not guilty verdict is way, way better.

      What about the cost? Well – if you really need to try to beat the case, it’s a lot of money. And money makes a big difference here.

      San Diego? This is the kind of case I can handle. So I will give you a real quote for these facts today.

      I would charge a flat rate of $3000 for all the legal work (including going to court for him) upto the point of a trial.

      If a trial is required, I would charge by the date $1200 per day with a 4 day estimate.

      You would also need to budget for a really good forensic toxicologist (expert witness) to counter act the government’s expert witness testimony. To get a really good expert, the cost would be about $2500 (maybe a little less).

      So, the bottom line is that if you really need to put up the full monte dui defense with a trial, it is a $10,000 problem.

      You need to choose the attorney based upon desire to actually win the case, not on price.

      If all you want to do is plead guilty, I can do that for you for $700 in san diego. But putting up a real, effective, defense is a whole different world. In this case, the outcome may make a huge difference in life.

      I wish money did not make a difference in a criminal case. But it does. IF you have the money to right the right attorney and right expert(s), you have a better chance at success than a person with a job and no extra money. I really wish that were not true.

      Well, if you want me to handle the case, I would like to take it because I consider San Diego my home court and I need to get there anyway. I’m ready to go. San Diego? I can take care of the first court appearance by fax – your husband would not even have to go to that first date. Send me the details cdort (at)

      What about DMV? Well he has 10 days to request an appeal hearing from the CA Department of Motor Vehicles to try to prevent the suspension. I can handle that as well – included. And you have to do that part in a real defense – for way too many reasons to list here.

  31. Sarah says:

    I have to go to court with charges of PSC, Pdp, Pula, and speeding. I am a student and part-time employed. I am going to request a public defender. What is the chance that I will receive one, and will I get the chance to talk to them?
    Also, this is my first offense. I am going to ask if it can be removed from my record. Is there a good chance they will do this? And what are the possible things I am going to have to do as a consequence?

  32. Lynn says:


    I was pulled over for expired tags. I was moving from the valley to WLA and my car was a mess. The officer asked for my ID, Insurance, and registration. Registration was expired, couldn’t fine ID other than passport or current insurance card. I was able to find previous two years insurance cards, I haven’t changed my policy number. Turns out my NY id was expired. The officer gave me three citations. Two were infractions for registration and proof of insurance, the one I’m worried about is the misdemeanor for the CA licence. I have to go to court but cant afford the bail. I am in grad school, in nearly 5,000 in medical debt with a surgery looming and no way to pay for it. I need surgery I cant afford to get as well. Having a misdemeanor on my record with restrict the jobs i can apply for in Aug when i graduate. This will also effect my Stanford Application for there PhD program. I have never been in any trouble before. I am at a loss at what to do. I can’t afford to pay. The money just isn’t there. I temp. and live paycheck to paycheck, but make just enough not to qualify for any financial help or services. What do I do?

    • Lynn,

      Why do I always have to be the jerk? Alright, I’ll do it one more time. But I hate it, so this might be the last time.

      This is a super common problem. And here is the part where I have to be a jerk to help you.

      1. It does not matter where you are going to school. Forget about that part of the story.
      2. It does not matter where you plan to apply for school. Forget about that part of the story.
      3. It does not matter where you were moving to. Forget about that part of the story.
      4. It does not matter that you had 2 expired insurance cards. Forget about that part of the story.
      5. It does not matter that your NY ID was expired. Forget about that part of the story. And throw that card away.
      6. It does not matter (here is the one I really hate to write) how much medical debt you have. Forget about that part of the story.

      OK, having removed all of that, I will re write your question in a way that makes sense to me:

      “I have a citation in LA County with 3 violations, one of which is a misdemeanor that concerns me. I do not want a criminal record if I can avoid it. I cant afford to pay what I am imagining the court is going to charge me. I dont think I qualify for the public defender because I do have some income. What do I do?”

      Actually, I can make it even shorter:

      “I have a misdemeanor citation. I do not qualify for the public defender. What do I do?”

      Here is some good news:

      As long as you show up to court on time in person, you are not going to have to pay bail. There may be fines to pay in the end, but the court will give you time to pay.

      If you want the best shot at avoiding a misdemeanor conviction, (which is what you should be focused on) I recommend 2 things: 1) see if you can get a valid CA drivers license; and 2) contact our local attorney sponsor Mark Gallagher (attorneygallagher (at) to see if there is any way you can hire him to do the work for you. It might be cheaper than you think. He may offer a payment plan for some people. He is very good with these cases, and can go to court for you. He knows how to get an infraction instead of a misdemeanor if possible.

      It is worth the money to hire an attorney on a case like this because it will probably save you a lot of money in the end. Especialy if the misdemeanor will cause you employment problems later.

      An Attorney dealing with this case would 1) collect any proof of valid insurance you have; 2) collect proof of registration of your car from you or proof that you got rid of the car; and 3) if you have it, get your CA drivers license.

      Then, once in court, the attorney would try to use those documents to negotiate some kind of settlement with the prosecutor (or judge it there is none that day).

      You do not need proof of drivers license or insurance to resolve the case. But it will probably save you a huge amount of money.

      Because I am psychic, I can tell you are charged with a misdemeanor 12500(a), Veh Code, driving without a valid drivers license. If I am wrong, dont tell me. On that charge, when I have a drivers license to show, is try to talk everyone into a VC 12500(a) infraction, instead of a misdemeanor. Some courts will tell you its not possible, but with a creative argument based on saving court resources, it is very possible to get the infraction. I have done it lots and lots of times.

      What to do if there is no way you can hire Mark to do the work? Show up in court on time. Ask to apply for the public defender anyway. See what happens.

      If you cannot get to court or have trouble due to a disability, you can request an accommodation. See my article on the subject.

      And you can also go to court on time for your arraignment and ask the judge for time to hire a private attorney (or time to get your valid CA drivers license). They will almost always give you time.

      What not to do? Dont miss your court date. That can make a $1000 problem turn into a 10,000 problem.

  33. Jo says:

    I was arrested last weekend on DUI charges with a breathalyzer reading of 0.18%. I’m positive I cannot afford to hire a private attorney due to my low income level and immediate debts. I plan on requesting a public defender at my arraignment; however, I was told that I must enter a plea at the arraignment. Is this true? In the case that I want to lessen the charges, or the penalty at least, is it recommended that I plea “not guilty.” I don’t want to deny guilt in my case and have it backfire on me. Also I was told that I would want to request a restricted license from the DMV prior to the arraignment. I will need one as I have to travel to and from work. Is there any advice you might be able to offer. Thank you in advance!

    • Jo,

      There is a nugget of good question in here somewhere.

      First thing I have to say is that the court will not consider your consumer “debts”. in determining your eligibility for the Public Defender. Think about it this way: The court is not going to use county money to pay a criminal defense attorney to defend you in a criminal case so that you can use your money to pay your credit card bills, car payment, insurance, or mortgage. The court does not care if your car gets repossessed, or if your credit report gets hammered as a result of a criminal case.

      So, you should forget about the debts part and focus on household expenses for your family and a lack of savings (if true) and a lack of employment (if true), etc. Focus on food for the kids, medical bills, etc. – lack of ability to borrow from friends and family (if true).

      Then, I have some bad news. But first I want to say that sometimes my job involves giving people bad news, even though I wnt to give them good news. And here it comes . . .0.18% is more than 2x the legal limit in CA. That BAC level (if you admit to it or if it is proven at trial) will bring extra penalties over and above the standard First Offense DUI in California. (Sorry about the shameless insertion of key words there).

      You may be able to request a restricted drivers license from the DMV prior to your case ending if you 1) dont mind admitting guilt prior to the end of your case; 2) you enroll in the DUI classes early.

      The problem is that you dont know what class the judge is going to order you to take, and what the ultimate conviction will be. If any.

      If this were my case and my client were completely rich with unlimited money and time to waste, I would immediately call DMV, schedule a hearing to challenge the administrative per se suspension, and ask the DMV for a Stay of the suspension until the decision on that hearing.

      Then, your drivers license would be good for a while. The DMV would send me all of the discovery (police report, test results, etc) and I would review and search for possible defenses. I might even hire an expert witness, a forensic toxicologist, to testify at the DMV hearing for you if there is a good issue (like machine failed previously). Maybe the cop forgot to sign the right form? (I won a case on that before). I would try to win that hearing for you.

      Then, if we lost, and you had a lot of money, we would appeal that DMV decision via writ to the superior court to challenge the decision on the grounds that the DMV illegally relied on in admissible hearsay in the report.

      If we lost that, I would then try to help you figure out which program the court might send you to and talk to you about it then.

      In the mean time, we would have plead not guilty in court and started working on a Penal Code 1538.5 Motion and hearing to see if we can beat the case or get some good discovery on the legality of the stop. If we lose there, we appeal via writ to the Federal Court on 4th Amendment issues to see if we can get some traction there.

      Assuming we get the denial from the federal court (usually comes the next day o a post card, which is really, really strange when you think about it), we would proceed to prepare for trial by doing some discovery motions, and preparing motions in limine to limit the evidence. We would prepare our expert for testimony during trial.

      Then, somewhere along the way, the judge would force me to talk to the prosecutor to try to work out the case by settlement or “plea agreement”. They would make an offer based upon the evidence and likelihood of conviction, and then I would tell my client and give my best advice on whether or not to take the offer.

      Unfortunately, and I truly think this is unfair, the public defenders are not allowed to help you in the DMV process.

      But who knows???? You did not tell me where this was, or I did not really read it. Maybe you are in a super rich county??????? Maybe the public defenders are under works and over paid where you are???

      My advice: talk to several attorneys. They all charge different prices, and may have different approaches.

      If all you want to do is plead guilty on the first day, and get on with life (which might be a great idea if you know you are totally guilty and you understand everything that is happening in court) – I offer a self help video on How to Plead Guilty to your Own DUI in CA. And in that video is a description of how to get an “Indicated Sentence”, or a preview of your sentence, from the judge prior to entering a guilty plea.

      Ouch. Just injured myself typing.

  34. Kyle says:

    I was cited for possession, 23222b. It was marked as an infraction. My worry is thst it will go on my driving record, which my work checks yearly. Is there any way to avoid this? Such as a diversion? This is my first offense and I really dont know how any of this works.

    I talked to another law enforcement. And they said to get a card, (i live in so cal). Plead not guilty. And explain that i got a card now.

    • Kyle,

      My opinion: Only an idiot would take advice about how to handle their case from a law enforcement officer. That’s my opinion. But my job is to defend people.

      Unless you were caught while driving, possession of pot as an infraction in ca should not cause a violation to show on your driving record.

      Unless I am wrong.

      If you plead not guilty, I would expect the judge to give you a trial date. But maybe you can talk the judge into a dismissal? Maybe not. What’s your defense again? “I became a legal user later”? Hum . . . It might work.

      It also might be more efficient and better for your life if you just pay an infraction fine in advance to end the case, if the court clerk will allow, and avoid going to court altogether.

  35. Michele says:

    I was arrested for a DUI, with an accident on May 27. I rear ended a car that I believe could not be avoided. Both the driver in front and myself were stopped at a right merge lane. The car started to go and made a sudden abrupt stop and I rear ended. I do not think this could have been avoided by any driver. I am on Prescription meds. There are traffic cameras and maybe the police car had a camera. I am not sure. But if the traffic cameras were available, one answer could be answered. I took 3 breathalizer tests. No alcohol. The officer told me because he suspected I was under the influence, I would be required to take a blood test. I do not abuse these meds, however they sound so bad, because one was oxycodone. I have been on this for several years. I hired an attorney for 2K, I had to borrow the money. I am unemployed, my husband is PT employed and we have not made a house payment of lots of other payments for months. Since Oct, and we had to borrow that. I was on Disability Insurance through June 2011, got some unemployment 2K total. I am working with the Dept of Rehab to get retrained, because of my back pain and stress ( anxiety. Working on getting SSD. I think I will need a trial. What should I do.?

    • Michele, this is a good question. Actually, its a lot of questions.

      With any DUI arrest involving a collision, you have 2 problems:

      1) Criminal Case for the DUI charges

      2) the Civil Case that is coming when the other driver sues you in civil court.

      I have to stick to the basics here, otherwise I would have to write a book.

      OK in the criminal case, you have to realize IT IS TOTALLY ILLEGAL TO DRIVE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ANY DRUG, EVEN IF YOU HAVE A PRESCRIPTION! Sounds like you are guilty to violating Vehicle Code section 23152(a) – which is one of the 2 bascic DUi charges. It does apply to driving on prescription drugs. Just because you have a prescription for a drug does not mean you can use it and drive.

      So looking at the evidence here, you seem to admit using a prescription narcotic at the time of driving. And you caused an accident. Yes, you caused it. If you hit a car from behind it is your fault. The law in CA applies a presumption that says a driver who hits another driver from behind is negligent and therefore liable for all “proximately caused” damages resulting from the collision.

      You are in denial. You were following too close. The accident was your fault (unless you have some proof that someone forced you to be that close to the other car by pushing you). The truth is you did not leave enough space and where therefore negligent. (or at least that how it seems on these facts).

      Negligence requires: 1) a legal duty (you had a duty to not injure the people in other vehicles at all times); 2) a breach of that duty (you hit a person in front of you); 3) caused; 4) injuries or property damage (I presume there was some damage).

      And causing a crash is evidence of bad driving that can be used against you to show intoxication in a DUI trial.

      If anyone besides you was injured, this could be a felony DUI.

      I know that you want a trial, but I dont see what your defense is. Is your defense that you did not take your meds that day and some truck pushed you into the car in front of you?

      Nonetheless, there are triable issues here for sure. With prescription narcotics (yes that was a narcotic), they cannot really prove what your intox level was at the time of driving. They need other evidence to show intoxication, like an accident that you caused.

      There are no good facts here.

      When you have good facts, you argue the facts. When you have bad facts, you argue the law.

      Here, the government has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were intoxicated at the time of the collision (and depending on the charges, they may have to prove that that intoxication was a substantial contributing factor in the collision).

      The police officer did not see you driving. Your performance on a Field Sobriety Tests can be explained by your shaken and scared state after a car crash (I know you think you passed those, but if you did you would not have been arrested).

      Then there are big considerations like: 1) what happens if I demand a trial, and then later the other driver claims I hurt his back. And just prior to trial the district attorney amends the case to add felony charges? OUCH!

      Oh wait. I forgot to mention that poverty is not a defense. It does not matter how many house payments you have made. It does not matter that you receive SSI; it does not matter that you are unemployed; it does not matter why you were taking the drugs; it does not matter that you had to borrow the money, none of that crap matters.

      Get focused!

      A young ambitious public defender may be happy to do this trial. It’s a challenge. But you do not get to choose which public defender you get, and few of them would be excited about this case. Most would tell you that you are doomed, and that you should plead guilty to the misdemeanor DUI charge if possible immediately to prevent a more serious felony amendment.

      A private attorney like myself would be happy to do the case for the money. But you dont have the money.

      I say that because the budget here would be big.

      The government is going to have a Department of Justice Forensic Toxicologist at trial to give an expert, scientific opinion about your state of intox.

      You will have to hire an expert of your own to counter that opinion, which I would estimate at a cost of $2500.

      Then there would be my fee, and for a DUI trial, because of the stress, difficulty, and general public IRE, I charge by the day at a rate of $1400 per day. I would give you a 5 day estimate.

      Total cost for a DUI trial that you probably have very little chance of winning – Estimate of $11,000. And for me, you would have to pay upfront, in full, in advance (because you may be going to jail if you lose bad).

      And that is the market price for a trial attorney with the balls to tell a jury you are innocent.. – Check around.

      Of course, there is no way in the world anyone could guarantee you would win. The odds are really bad in DUi cases with a rear end collision.

      What would I charge to go in and end the case for you ASAP, while you stay at home? About $1800.

      Is your current attorney going to give you a real trial defense for $2k – probably not. Read the contract.

      So those are my random thoughts.

      The prosecution needs 12 people to vote for guilty together. A defense attorney only needs 1 crazy person to vote not guilty to win.

      Sure, I’ll try it. It’s possible. When can you pay?

      See – that is the problem. Money does make a huge difference here. A rich person could roll the jury dice without losing everything.

      DUI trials done by Private Attorneys are actually super, super rare. I would guess at least 90% of all CA DUI trials are done by Public Defender Attorneys under 35 years old. And most of those Attorneys are very good trial attorneys, because the practice everyday. But still, the vast majority of those DUI trials result in convictions – and regular paychecks from the county to the Public Defender.

      You probably do qualify for the public defender on these facts.

      OK – I hope there is something in here that helps.

      Now Item #2) The Civil Case after the other driver sues you:

      Sorry, I am out of blog time. Except I can say this, if you had auto liability insurance, your insurance co must hire an attorney to defend you against the civil suit. If you had enough money, or really injured someone, your best option would be to hire an Attorney who has civil and criminal trial experience – like me.

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