FAQ

  • Confiscated Property

    • Why was my property taken?

      The police may take property for four reasons:

      1. SAFEKEEPING: Valuables such as money, jewelry and furs are taken from an arrestee to prevent them from being stolen. An arrestee's car is sometimes impounded to keep it safe while he is in custody. Property taken for safekeeping only should be returned upon presentation of the receipt and proper identification. Contact your attorney if law enforcement refuses to return property seized for safekeeping.
      2. FORFEITURE: Property may be seized and held by the police because they believe it was used to commit or was proceeds of a crime. The police may permanently keep or sell property if they can prove in a civil court that it was unlawfully used or obtained. The police have seized for forfeiture:
        • CARS driven by a drunk or reckless driver or without a valid driver's license, or used to obtain drugs or the services of a prostitute, or that contain a loaded gun. Cars used in these crimes may be seized even if the owner of the car was not arrested for the offense.
        • MONEY that was exchanged for drugs, or that was intended to be exchanged for drugs, or used in gambling.
        • MERCHANDISE that was sold on the street without a vendor's license.
        • TOOLS OR EQUIPMENT that were used to break into a car or building or to sell drugs. This may include a beeper or mobile phone that was possessed for communication during a crime.
      3. EVIDENCE: Property may be temporarily held as evidence by law enforcement even though it is rightfully yours and was not used illegally. Although your attorney may sometimes be able to promptly reclaim this property for you, property held as evidence will usually be held until the end of the criminal case, including all appeals. For example, the district attorney may hold your coat as evidence, if they believe that it will identify you as the person who committed a crime. If you are arrested for selling drugs, any large sum of cash that you were carrying will probably be held as evidence of the charge. Evidence may also be taken from people who are not charged with any crime, such as witnesses to or victims of a crime. For instance, if your friend borrows your car and is later arrested in your car after he used it to commit a drive-by shooting, your car will be impounded and kept as evidence in that crime.
      4. CONTRABAND: This is property that has been taken or confiscated because it is a crime to have it. This category includes illegal drugs, unlicensed handguns, switchblade knives, forged papers, counterfeit money, or fake credit cards. If you have been charged with possession of contraband, it will be held as evidence while your case is in court, and may be destroyed afterwards.
    • What are my rights if my property is taken by the police?

      If the police take your property when they search or arrest you, they must give you a document that acts as a receipt.   Each law enforcement agency has its own form to act as a receipt, and these documents most often contain a line for you to sign acknowledging the officer provided you a copy of the receipt, and/or that the receipt is accurate.  You are entitled to a receipt that is correct and complete. If the receipt is incorrect or incomplete, do not sign it, and ask for the receipt to be corrected. You do not have to sign the receipt to have your property returned. Tell your attorney if the receipt given to you is incomplete.
    • How do I get my property back?

      You should check with your attorney before making a request to have any property released to your possession. How to get your property back depends on whether the property was taken as contraband or for safekeeping, evidence/investigation, or forfeiture.

      1. SAFEKEEPING: Upon request by the property's rightful owner or his appointed representative the law enforcement agency property clerk should release property taken for safekeeping. If you are held in custody while your case is pending, property held for safekeeping can be obtained by a friend or relative who has your receipt, a notarized letter from you which authorizes that friend or relative to claim your property, and proper identification. You may also apply for the return of your property by mail.
      2. FORFEITURE: If the property is being held for forfeiture, you have a right to notice and a hearing prior to the property being permanently taken from you. You should consult with your attorney to assist you with the forfeiture process.
      3. EVIDENCE: If the property is being held as evidence, you will first need an order from the court to release property.
      4. CONTRABAND: Property that is illegal to possess, like narcotics that you have without a prescription, will not be returned.
  • Everything You Need to Know About Bail

    • What is bail?

      Bail is money that some criminal defendants are required to deposit to guarantee that they will return to court if released from jail while their cases are pending. Although there are several exceptions, in general people arrested for an infraction or a misdemeanor must be released upon signing a written notice to appear.

      Exceptions to this general rule include cases in which:

      • The arrestee requests to be brought before a judge.
      • The arrestee refuses to sign a promise to appear.
      • The arrestee is charged with a violation of a domestic violence protective order.
      • The arrestee is severely intoxicated or requires medical attention.
      • The arrestee has outstanding warrants.
      • The arrestee fails to provide satisfactory identification.
      • The release would jeopardize the prosecution of the offense for which the person was arrested.
      • The safety of others would be jeopardized if the arrestee is release.
      • The officer has reason to believe the arrestee will not appear.
      • The arrestee is charged with Driving Under the Influence.
    • How is bail set?

      At a bail hearing, the judge will set the bail amount according to the County’s bail schedule and in light of the circumstances of the arrestee’s background and the conduct with which he is charged.  The County of San Bernardino has a bail schedule guiding the amount of bail for the pertinent charges that is posted at http://www.co.san-bernardino.ca.us/courts/.  The bail schedule is a guideline, thus the actual bail set may deviate from the schedule. 
    • How do I post bail?

      Bail may be posted with cash, a cashier’s check or through a bail bond. A bail bond is a legal contract that requires someone to pay money if a defendant fails to return to court. It is guaranteed by the assets of the person who posted it, such as real estate, savings, or valuable personal property. To post the bail, money can be deposited with the Sheriff’s Department. For more information about how to post bail for your particular situation, call the Sheriff’s Department at (909) 350-2476.
    • What is "OR"?

      An arrestee may be released on their own recognizance, or released "OR."

      If released OR, the arrestee may be required to submit to reasonable conditions of release. If a court agrees to release the arrestee OR, the court will require them to sign an agreement specifying their:

      • Promise to appear at all times and places as ordered
      • Promise to obey all reasonable conditions of the release
      • Promise not to leave the state without the court’s permission
      • Agreement to waive extradition from another state if it becomes necessary
      • Acknowledgement the arrestee understands the consequences of violating the conditions of OR release
    I've Been Arrested My Legal Rights Navigating the Judicial System 
  • How Do I Find a Lawyer

    • ...If I am Unable to Afford One?

      If you are financially unable to afford an attorney, at your arraignment the court will appoint a lawyer for you from the San Bernardino County Public Defender, unless the Public Defender has a conflict of interest with your case.  In cases where the Public Defender has a legal conflict of interest with your case, the arraignment court will appoint a private law firm that has a contract with the County to provide indigent defense services.
    • ...If I am Financially Able?

      If you are financially able to afford an attorney, to find an attorney you may call the San Bernardino County Bar Association at 909-888-6791 . You can also speak with friends or neighbors who may know an attorney, or check the yellow pages.
  • Must Law Enforcement Advise You of Your Rights

    • ...In Order To Question You?

      Law enforcement's duty to advise you of your Miranda rights is limited. If you are "in custody" and are being questioned, the police may have to advise you of your rights. HOWEVER, you must not rely on the police advising you of your rights because there are many situations where law enforcement is NOT under a duty to make these advisements. The fact that law enforcement does not advise you of your rights does NOT render the arrest unlawful.

      You are under no duty to answer any questions except your name and address.

    • ...In Order to Search You?

      Law enforcement is under NO DUTY to advise you of your rights in order to search you or your property.  Nevertheless, law enforcement can only search you or your property under certain circumstances.  This area of the law is very complicated and you should check with an attorney about your particular situation.

      While you do have the right to refuse to be searched or have your property searched, there are situations where law enforcement can search you or your property without your consent.  You should make it clear to law enforcement that you do not consent to the search, but that you will not resist the search.  If law enforcement has a search warrant, ask for a copy of the warrant.

    My Legal Rights 
  • Under Investigation

    • What If I am Under Investigation?

      If you have reason to believe you are under investigation by San Bernardino law enforcement, you should contact the San Bernardino County Public Defender by telephone at 909-382-7639

      Consultation with an attorney is important so that you can understand your rights, responsibilities, and the potential outcomes of any law enforcement investigation.

      Most law enforcement investigators will understand and must respect your desire to first speak with an attorney. Any consultation about your own potential case with the San Bernardino County Public Defender will be completely confidential.

      This Department will accept collect calls regarding San Bernardino County criminal or civil commitment legal matters.

    My Legal Rights Navigating the Judicial System 
  • What if I am stopped by Law Enforcement

    • Be Mindful

      If you are stopped by law enforcement, carefully follow all instructions the officer gives to you.  Make no unnecessary moves, and keep your hands in clear view.  Speak only when asked questions, and then keep in mind your right to remain silent.
    • Remember Your Rights to Remain Silent and to an Attorney

      If you are stopped by law enforcement, keep in mind the Miranda warnings made popular in television program:

      "You have the right to remain silent
      Anything you say can and may be used against you in court
      You have the right to an attorney before and during any questioning
      If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to assist you"

      Many people feel they can easily handle any contact with law enforcement, but in fact these contacts are most often filled with surprise, fear, confusion and many other forms of severe discomfort that typically affect human decision making capabilities. Consequently, if you are questioned by law enforcement, it is essential to keep these rights in mind, and to invoke the rights as soon as possible. 

      State clearly that you wish to have an attorney present before and during any questioning.  If law enforcement continues to question you after you have requested an attorney, repeat your request for an attorney and otherwise remain silent.

    • What If I am a Minor?

      If you are 16 years old or less, request law enforcement to contact your parent or guardian, and wait until your parent or guardian arrives to where you are being held, before you answer any questions.  You should also request law enforcement to have an attorney present before and during any questioning, regardless of whether your parent or guardian is present.
    I've Been Arrested My Legal Rights 
  • What is a Public Defender

    • Definition

      Pursuant to Government Code §27706, et seq., a Public Defender is either an elected or appointed public servant who represents indigent and limited non-indigent defendants in certain defined legal cases.  Counties may choose to establish a Public Defender to represent these clients or may contract with private attorneys to render legal care.  Most California counties have Public Defenders. 

      The Public Defender appoints Deputy Public Defenders to represent individual clients.  Deputy Public Defenders must be attorneys licensed by the California State Bar.  An attorney who is already a member of the Bar must pass highly competitive and rigorous examinations and interviews in order to become a Deputy Public Defender. In addition, Public Defenders throughout California require and support ongoing legal education and training to ensure the highest quality in their Deputies.

    • San Bernardino County Public Defender

      The San Bernardino County Public Defender is a County department that is staffed with attorneys licensed by the State Bar of California.  The attorneys who handle cases in court are called “Deputy Public Defenders.”  In addition to attorneys, the San Bernardino County Public Defender employs Investigators to fully investigate cases handled by the Department.  Our investigators have an average of 21 years of investigative experience.  The Department also has a staff of social workers and support staff to provide the best representation for clients.

      The San Bernardino County Public Defender will be appointed to represent any criminal or civil commitment defendant who cannot afford to hire an attorney, unless the office has a legal conflict of interest with that defendant’s case. 

    • Types of cases handled by the San Bernardino County Public Defender

      The San Bernardino County Public Defender represents adults or juveniles charged with misdemeanor or felony crimes, persons facing involuntary civil commitment for mental disorders or commitment under the Sexually Violent Predator statute.
    • What is the Cost of a Public Defender?

      Once the criminal case has concluded, the court may order clients to pay a reasonable fee for Public Defender services. The determination of what is reasonable is made in light of the client’s financial resources. A reasonable payment schedule is arranged with the individual. Payments are not made to the Public Defender but to the County’s Central Collections Bureau and only after the case has been concluded. The Public Defender is not involved in the hearing to determine a client’s ability to pay, billing or collections of fees ordered by the court.
    My Legal Rights Navigating the Judicial System 
  • When Someone You Know is Arrested

    • Inmate Locator

    • Locating Your Loved One

      Learning that a loved one has been arrested is a painful and stressful experience. Uncertainty and lack of information about the process only makes things more difficult. The arrest process is complex; there are exceptions to every rule. But the following information can help guide you through the process.

      People arrested by a law enforcement agency are taken for initial processing to the stationhouse of the agency in which the arrest occurred. Excluding holidays and weekends, the in custody arraignment must happen within 48 hours of the arrest: This will probably be the first time you will be able to see your friend or loved-one following an arrest. An arraignment is the court proceeding at which the arrestee is informed of his rights and the charges against him, he is given a copy of the charging document, an opportunity to enter a plea to the charges and bail will be set. The court will also set the next court hearing date at the arraignment. Arraignments are held in court but the arrestee may appear by video from either the West Valley Detention Center or the Adelanto Detention Center.

      In the County of San Bernardino, each local law enforcement agency has different booking procedures. 

    • To Visit Someone in Jail

    I've Been Arrested Navigating the Judicial System 
  • Clear My Record

    Public Defender staff assists individuals with becoming productive and positive members of the community by clearing criminal convictions. If the court grants post conviction relief, the individual is released from all disabilities flowing from the conviction, thereby, nullifying the effects of the conviction for most employment purposes.  Although the petition does not remove the court records from public inspection, and it may not prevent the conviction from being used as a prior to increase punishment in case of a subsequent conviction, it may assist individuals with obtaining employment or registering for school. This is just one aspect of our holistic approach towards rehabilitation and reintegration in a way that benefits the community.

    An individual who has completed probation on a qualifying offense and has no new or pending cases with the court may petition the court for a dismissal of his/her cases by filing a petition pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4 or 1203.4a.

    Individuals who have served time in state prison on qualifying offenses, must seek a Certificate of Rehabilitation.  A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court order declaring that person has been rehabilitated.  To be eligible, a person must have been free of custody for at least seven years, been a resident of California for five consecutive years before filing the petition, is not on probation or parole, and pass a background check.  Once a person has completed the required period of rehabilitation, a person may file for a COR in his/her current county of residency.  

    Proposition 47 passed by the People of the State of California allow certain non-violent felonies to be reduced to misdemeanors after the filing of a petition under Penal Code Section 1170.18.  In addition Proposition 64 allows for many marijuana convictions to be reduced to a misdemeanor or be dismissed by filing a petition under Penal Code Section 11368.1.
     
    Click here for:  Clear My Record Application  
     
    Clear My Record 
  • Requesting More Information

News

Law Day

Law Day celebrates the role of law in our society and cultivates a deeper understanding of the legal profession.
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October 05, 2016

Community Plea Program

Individuals with outstanding traffic infractions and low-level misdemeanors may be eligible to perform community service instead of jail time...
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October 03, 2016

2016 NACo Achievement Award for Law Day Program

San Bernardino County wins a 2016 Achievement Award for Law Day Program
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June 14, 2016

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Events

Harvest Resource Fair - San Bernardino CA

November 04, 2017

The Law Offices of the Public Defender will participate in this event to provide expungement / dismissal services to members of the community who need to clean up their records.
See more info here: harvest-resource-fair-11-04-2017.pdf
Turkey Giveaway Event & Resource Fair

November 18, 2017

The Young Visionaries, in conjunction with Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino, are hosting a "Turkey Giveaway & Resource Fair" on November 18, 2017 from 10 AM - 3 PM at Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County, located at 696 South Tippecanoe Avenue in San Bernardino.  Staff from the Public Defender's office will be on site to assist members of the community in cleaning up their records.  For more info:  turkey-giveaway-2017.pdf
6th Annual Eat & Be Well Event - Fontana CA

November 22, 2017

Click here for more details:  http://eatbewell.org/about/.

This is a free event.  Time:  11am - 3pm
 
More Events »