Simply call the public defenders office and provide the receptionist with your full name. Ordinarily that information will be enough to help our staff determine the name of our lawyer.
It is important that you appear for all of your court dates unless you have specifically talked to your lawyer about not being able to appear in court and he or she has specifically told you that he or she can appear without you. Otherwise a warrant will be issued for your arrest. If you forgot your court date, call our office and ask the receptionist to tell you your next court date. You may also call the Clerk of courts Office at (605) 367-5900.
Attorneys spend a majority of their time in court or meeting with clients either in their office or at the jail. If the secretary is unable to answer your question, and you have to leave a message for your attorney, please speak your name and number slowly and clearly. If you are calling to schedule an appointment, the secretary can assist you. Scheduling an appointment is the best way to make sure your attorney has received all the information he or she needs to properly represent you. Scheduling an appointment in advance, as you would for a visit with your doctor or your dentist, is the most practical way to make sure all of your questions and concerns are addressed.
Yes. Under S.D. law, every person represented by a court-appointed attorney is responsible for the repayment of the costs to the county for providing the service. Parents and legal guardians are responsible for the repayment of legal services provided to juveniles up to a statutory limit. The hourly rate is set by the S.D. Supreme Court, not by the county, or the public defender’s office. The current rate is set at $82.00 per hour. The Judge may order the repayment of the fee as a condition of the sentence, or the county may bill you for the service at the conclusion of your case. Either way, you will be financially obligated to pay the amount owed regardless of the outcome of the case. However, both the county and the court will be more inclined to assist you by authorizing additional time to get everything paid, if you can show a good faith attempt to meet your financial obligation before the final due date by making regular payments. Neither the Chief Public Defender, nor the actual attorney who handled the case, have the discretion to forgive or write off unpaid attorney fees.
Minnehaha County has established the Office of the Public Advocate. This office provides representation for defendants whom the Public Defender cannot represent. This may occur, for example, when our office already represents another defendant accused in the same case, or the defendant happens to be a witness against another public defender client in a separate case. This is called a “conflict of interest.” Attorneys who work for the Public Advocate are not employees of the Public Defender’s Office. The Chief Public Advocate for Minnehaha County is Cynthia Howard. (Public Advocates website)
When both the Public Advocate and the Public Defender cannot represent a client because of a conflict of interest, the court then appoints a private attorney based on a list of attorneys who have indicated a desire to take court-appointments. Those attorneys, likewise, are not employees of the Public Defender’s Office.
The attorney-client privilege protects all confidential communications between lawyer and client, and can not be disclosed without the consent of the client. This privilege also applies to all employees of the public defender’s office.
Attorney-client privilege only protects communications between the lawyer and the client. Adding a third party to the communication, the communication is no longer confidential. Some might deem the attorney-client privilege to have been waived, and the family member or friend could be subpoenaed to testify to anything he or she heard during the appointment. Asking friends and family to stay in the waiting room during appointments is intended for your protection. If after the appointment you would still like us to speak with your family member or friend to answer any specific questions or concerns that they may have, we would be happy to do so, as long as it does not involve questions pertaining to the facts of the case that are privileged.
A paralegal is a legal assistant who has been trained to assist an attorney in a variety of tasks which do not involve the actual practice of law. In order for a paralegal to work for the Public Defender's Office, he or she must first complete a course of study with a recognized school for paralegal studies and obtain a paralegal certificate, or meet certain other minimum requirements.
Like attorneys who wish to work for the Public Defender's Office, each candidate must submit to a rigorous interview and oral examination to ascertain whether he or she has the intellectual ability, the legal knowledge and the commitment to work on behalf of defendants who have been charged with serious crimes. Paralegals are charged with assisting clients in getting any records together that may be necessary in preparation of the case, including setting up any testing or evaluation, evidence viewing, or helping clients get into treatment programs. They may also do legal research, watch videos, conduct client and witness interviews, as well as assisting the Deputy Public Defender with trial preparation.
Our paralegals have been trained to effectively interview the client and family, and also gather any positive evidence such as community support and employer recommendations which can be presented to the jury at trial. A paralegal may also prepare a social history of the client's life, so that the court may consider all aspects of the background and upbringing before pronouncing sentence.