Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a Public Defender?
An Assistant Public Defender is a lawyer provided by the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) to represent persons charged with criminal offenses who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. Assistant Public Defenders are appointed by the Maryland State Public Defender.
Are Public Defenders real lawyers?
Yes. All Assistant Public Defenders are licensed attorneys who have completed law school and are sworn members of the Maryland Bar. Assistant Public Defenders are widely recognized as among the best criminal defense attorneys in the State of Maryland.
How do I obtain the services of an OPD Lawyer?
If you are charged with a crime and cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you should ask to be referred to the Office of the Public Defender at your first appearance before a judge. Then you must go immediately to the local Public Defender’s Office to apply for services. (Not all offices offer Intake services, call 1 877 430 5187 for information about the nearest Intake office).
Where is your office?
The Office of the Public Defender maintains local offices throughout the State of Maryland. To locate the Office nearest to you, click on District/County Offices. (Not all offices offer Intake services, call 1 877 430 5187 for information about the nearest Intake office).
When should I come to your office, and what should I bring?
You must apply for services no later than 10 business days prior to your trial date. The Offices are open Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (Not all offices offer Intake services, call 1 877 430 5187 for information about the nearest Intake office). You should bring all of your charging documents, and you must provide proof of income when making an application at one of the local Public Defender Offices.
If I am in Jail, how do I contact the Public Defender?
A representative from the Office of the Public Defender regularly visits the local jails in order to find out if anyone is in need of Public Defender attorney services.
What happens after I have been assigned to an OPD lawyer?
Once an OPD lawyer is assigned to represent you, that attorney will prepare your case. If you are in jail, a representative from the Public Defender’s Office will visit or call you. Your case will be investigated and your lawyer will meet with you before your court appearance to explain your case to you and to answer all of your questions.
When should I call my OPD lawyer?
You should call or contact your OPD lawyer whenever you have additional information about your case, or when you have the names and addresses of any witnesses that may be able to help your case.
Should I discuss my case with anyone other than my assigned OPD lawyer or a representative from the Office of the Public Defender?
No. It is very important that you do not talk to anyone about your case without your assigned OPD lawyer being present or without him/her giving your permission to do so.
If I am arrested, should I talk to the police?
If you are arrested, you should request to speak to a lawyer and you should obtain advice from a lawyer before answering police questions. For more information on what to do if your are stopped or arrested by the police, click here: http://www.aclu.org/police/gen/14528res20040730.html
I forgot my court date. How do I find out when it is?
If you have just had an “Initial Appearance” in court, you should have been given a sheet of paper that lists the date, time, and location of your next court appearance. If you do not have that paperwork, you can call the Court Clerk’s Office or contact your own attorney or the local Office of the Public Defender for assistance.
How do I get my sentence modified?
If you want to ask the sentencing judge to modify your sentence, you can do so by filing a “Motion for Reconsideration or Modification of Sentence;” or you can write a letter to the sentencing judge which clearly states your case number, your current sentence, and your reasons for requesting reconsideration or modification. For assistance, contact your attorney and/or the Office of the Public Defender.
How do I get an old case removed from my record?
You can get information on how to have court records removed from public inspection, or “expungement,” on the Maryland Courts website: http://www.courts.state.md.us/expungement/