Information on Arrest

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  • How do I get a Public Defender assigned to my case?

    A judge will appoint a Public Defender to your case at the first hearing on your case, called the arraignment hearing, if it is determined that you cannot financially afford to hire an attorney on your own. The court determines this by reviewing a financial declaration you fill out that same day. If the judge determines you do not qualify for a public defender, you will be given a new court date to return with a private attorney. If you are in custody at the time of your arraignment, the court will automatically appoint a Public Defender to represent you unless you are already represented by private counsel.

    At your arraignment hearing, Public Defenders will be in the courtroom to assist you through the process and speak to the court on your behalf. However, the attorney you speak with at that first hearing will not be the attorney assigned to your case for all other hearings.

  • When will I be able to speak to my Public Defender?

    When your case is assigned to a Public Defender, he/she/they will reach out to you to discuss your case. Usually, your public defender is assigned within a few days after your arraignment. This is because our office needs to receive information about your case, create a case file, and assign it to the right attorney for your specific matter. If your contact information changes, contact the branch office where your court case is, and inform them of any changes so that we have the most up-to-date contact information for you.

  • What are the next steps?

    Please visit our "How Criminal Cases Work?" for more info.

  • When is my next court date?

    Please refer to your court documentation for your next court date. If you are still unsure, please contact your Public Defender. It is important that you show up to all court appointments. If you do not show up to court, it can and often does result in the court issuing a warrant for your arrest. 


Information on Warrant

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  • You can find out if you are at warrant through the San Diego Sheriff’s Website
  • What Should I Do If I am At Warrant?

    There are two types of warrants, “no bail” warrant and warrants where a bail amount is set. If your warrant has a bail amount and you can afford it, you can post the bail, or post it with a bail bondsman, and you will be given a future date to appear. If you have a “no bail” warrant, it means that you must go directly to the court, and you cannot post the bail to get a hearing date. No matter what kind you have, you can always go directly to the court to add it on the court’s calendar. You do not ever have to post the bond.

    You can find out if you have a warrant by looking at the San Diego Sheriff’s website: San Diego County Sheriff's Department ( In order to address the warrant, you will need to appear in front of a judge (whether you post bail or not). If you do not already have a hearing date, you will need to ask the court to put your case on calendar, and you can do this at the business office in the courthouse where your case is being handled. They will give you a hearing date in the near future to address your warrant.

  • What if I have a warrant for not completing a program, but I have since completed it?

    If you have a warrant for failing to enroll in or complete a program (ex: MADD class, First Conviction Program, AA meetings), bring proof of that enrollment or completion with you to the business office along with your case number. In some cases, the business office may be able to recall the warrant right then and there with proof that you did what was asked of you. If you don’t know why you are at warrant and were represented previously by the public defender’s office, you can contact the office to inquire about the reason for the warrant. 

  • Will I get arrested if I go to Court while at warrant?

    Every case is different. Depending on the seriousness of the case and the warrant, your history of coming (or not coming) to court, and depending on the courthouse, you will either wait for your court hearing date in custody (if they take you in to custody immediately) or they will give you a hearing date and time to come back to court. In many (most) cases, the business office will simply give you a date and time to return to court to handle the warrant. In some cases, they will take you into custody until the hearing date.

    Unfortunately, we cannot tell you in advance what the court will do. For that reason, it is best to try to have your affairs in order before you come to court. In other words, make sure someone is able to watch your children and your pets and take care of other necessities in case you are placed into custody until the hearing date.

    Some people are understandably fearful to go to the courthouse while they have an active warrant. Sheriff deputies do not arrest people while they are walking into the courthouse to clear their warrant. They understand people are coming to court to take care of things responsibly. People come to the courthouse on a daily basis to add themselves on calendar to clear a warrant, and are allowed to do so without being stopped while they enter the courthouse. 

  • What happens if I do nothing about my warrant?

    When you have a warrant for your arrest, you have two options: 1) you can deal with it head on and clear it up by going to court; or 2) you can wait until you are contacted by law enforcement and brought into sheriff’s custody.

    If you decide to go in voluntarily to clear it up, the court respects and acknowledges that effort, and views it as a responsible and mature choice. In most circumstances, if you add yourself on calendar, you appear in front of the judge out of custody.

    If you wait until you are picked up on the warrant by the police, the judge and prosecution can use that fact against you when determining whether to set bail in any future cases and how to resolve your current case. You will also likely be in custody when appearing in front of the judge.  

  • Can the Public Defender Help Me Clear My Warrant?

    The Public Defender has attorneys in the departments where the hearing on your warrant will be held. If you are not represented by a private attorney, the deputy public defenders can assist you by talking to you about your warrant, the reason for the warrant, explaining what is going to happen during the court hearing, and helping to explain to the judge your specific circumstances.