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Santa Cruz criminal defense attorney public defenderIn California, when you are charged with a crime, you are entitled to have an attorney represent you in court. This can be a retained (hired) attorney, one whom you pay to go to court (and DMV) for you and help you wind your way through an often confusing situation. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you are not at all out of luck. The system provides criminal defense attorneys to help folks who cannot afford to hire private counsel, known as public defenders. Here in Santa Cruz, the public defenders are outstanding advocates for their clients. One often hears negative comments about public defenders in general - “just a government attorney,” “public pretender,” and “just another part of the system.” I can’t speak to areas where I don’t practice, but I can speak to the system in Santa Cruz, as I’ve been involved in it for over 30 years. The public defenders here are dedicated, intelligent, hard-working attorneys who zealously represent their clients. In short: they are outstanding attorneys. 

To see if you qualify for a public defender, you can go to court on your arraignment date and wait until the judge calls your case. You can request the judge appoint a public defender. Typically, a judge will either ask you to fill out a financial form, or he or she could simply question you about your financial situation. The judge then makes a determination as to whether you could afford to retain a private attorney. If the judge thinks you can afford to do so, he or she will give you time to hire an attorney. If the judge believes you cannot afford to hire a private attorney, a public defender will be appointed right then and there. There are public defenders staffing all of the criminal courtroom departments in Santa Cruz. If the judge appoints a public defender to represent you here in Santa Cruz, you are quite likely getting not just good, but extremely good representation.

One note for DUI offenders: your court date is usually 30 or more days after arrest, and the way our system is currently set up, you cannot apply for a public defender until you get to court. Meanwhile, there is usually a separate administrative action (separate from the court case) at DMV that started upon your arrest. If you don’t call DMV within 10 days of your arrest to set up an administrative hearing, DMV will automatically suspend your license. If you want to challenge the suspension of your license by DMV, you will need to make that call yourself (or have a lawyer do so) within those 10 days. The correct DMV number for a Santa Cruz DUI case is ironically a San Jose number: 408-229-7100. The hearing the DMV sets up is separate from the court date, and will likely be after the court date.

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When a person is on probation for a prior conviction, authorities tend to seek ways to allege a probation violation. Many probation violations may involve technical violations of a term or condition. However, some people may face allegations of a violation based upon new criminal charges. When probation violations are alleged with new charges, a person may face criminal consequences arising from the alleged violation, as well as in the new criminal case.

That type of combination was involved in the recent drunk driving charges that Bobby Brown was facing. The singer was arrested October 24 on suspicion of DUI. That was Brown's second DUI arrest during 2012, and the 44-year-old singer was still on probation for a March 2012 DUI when he was picked up last October in Los Angeles, California on the new DUI allegations. Authorities also say that Brown's license was suspended at the time of the October DUI arrest.

The singer did not personally appear in court Tuesday. However, his criminal defense lawyer entered a plea on behalf of Brown to resolve the criminal issues involved. Brown was ordered to serve 55 days in jail, but the jail time actually is divided among several different issues. The judge reported imposed 10 days each on the new DUI conviction on the conviction for driving while suspended. The court also ordered Brown to serve 35 days for the probation violation on the prior DUI.

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Can a common kitchen product used as a prank lead to criminal charges? Prosecutors in Southern California reportedly are reviewing police reports over a prank for potential charges, which officers investigated Thursday afternoon.

In what appears to be a simple workplace prank, authorities are now considering whether or not to bring criminal charges against a California worker. Police in Anaheim, California say that someone called law enforcement to report a vehicle wrapped in plastic. Officers raced to the parking lot outside the Anaheim Memorial Medical Center and used bomb-sniffing dogs to check out the Chevrolet pickup truck for possible explosives.

Police say that the truck had been wrapped in plastic and was adorned with notes that read "Plastic are hazardous," "Truck armed with plastics," and a note saying to keep away. Law enforcement locked down the area surrounding the truck and closed down nearby traffic for roughly two-and-a-half hours after responding to the scene.

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