San Diego DUI Law Center

“Since I cannot represent myself, can or should I get a Public Defender Lawyer for my San Diego DUI?”

Because a DUI is a misdemeanor, California criminal courts consider this a very serious offense you are facing. A person cannot represent himself or herself.

If you want to try to get a Public Defender (PD) Attorney in San Diego County, there may be a major obstacle. If you have a job or assets, you legally do not qualify for a PD Lawyer.

If you apply for a Public Defender, you will have to apply and swear under oath.

“4. What if I need an attorney?
You may retain an attorney to represent you at any stage of the proceedings.
If you qualify and you do not have the financial means to hire an attorney, the court may appoint an attorney to represent you.
You may be ordered to pay court appointed attorney fees.

If you do meet the financial eligibility criteria for a public defender for the Criminal Court side of your DUI case:

(a) public defenders do not handle DMV license suspension actions and DMV has no obligation at all to assist a person trying to reprsent himself or herself; and

(b) your court appointed attorney will not be available to discuss your DUI case with you until they have been officially appointed by the Judge no sooner than the date of your first court appearance, or arraignment.

Being that the 10 day grace period for requesting a DMV Licensing Hearing would have already lapsed, it is strongly recommended that you retain a qualified and proven a San Diego DUI Attorney Specialist to represent your quasi-civil, administrative matter with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

You can only apply for a “public defender” if you show you are unemployed & have no assets.

If you have no job or assets, you can’t choose which attorney from the Public Defender’s office you’ll get.

If you have no job or assets, your case will be assigned to an attorney. You may get an excellent one or one that is less than stellar. Like private attorneys, there are good and bad ones, but if you are assigned to a bad one, it’s difficult to switch unless you subsequently hire private counsel.

Public Defenders are notoriously overworked. While there are the good aspects I mentioned above, but their caseload doesn’t allow them the luxury to spend any significant amount of time with any one client. It’s not their fault – just a reality of too many cases and not enough time. Private attorneys will be able to spend more time discussing your case, the options and strategy with you.

Attorneys from the public defender’s office start with low-level offenses (such as misdemeanor DUI cases) and work their way up. If you have no job or assets, your case may not be assigned to an attorney with very much experience (as far as number of years practicing law).

Depending on the court and the number of public defenders, if you have no job or assets, you will usually get assigned based upon which attorney is “next in line”.

Perhaps an equal problem with a public defender is that such an attorney is assigned all types of case by the court. This does not allow the public defender lawyer to really focus on one area of law and they have to be more versed in all areas. You’re better off with a DUI attorney who concentrates on one particular practice area – only drunk driving and related DMV defense.

It’s wisest to find funds in order to retain a San Diego California DUI Attorney Specialist, recognized by the California DUI Lawyers Association, who only focuses on representing folks facing a DUI.