Public Defender Homepage

Contact Information

500 E. San Antonio
Suite 501
El Paso, Texas 79901
[view map]

Monday - Friday
8:00am - 5:00pm

Phone (915) 546-8185
Fax (915) 546-8186
publicdefender@epcounty.com

Other Information

Public Information Act
News & Updates
Calendar
Free CLE

Twitter

NOTICE: This site is maintained by the El Paso County Public Defender's Office as a public service. It is intended for informational purposes only. The information here is not legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice please CLICK HERE.

General

1) What is a Public Defender?
2) Can other lawyers be court-appointed?
3) How do I get a court appointed lawyer to represent me?
4) How do I know if I’m indigent?
5) If I qualify for an appointed lawyer, how will I know whether my lawyer is a Public Defender, or a lawyer in private practice?
6) What is a Felony?
7) What is an indictment?
8) What is the Complaint and Information?
9) What is Discovery?
10) What is a 28.01 hearing?
11) What does pre-trial mean?
12) How is bond set or reduced?

Clients

1) I cannot afford to hire a lawyer. How can I get a Public Defender appointed to represent me?
2) If I qualify for an appointed lawyer, how will I know whether my lawyer is a Public Defender, or a lawyer in private practice?
3) If I am in jail, or juvenile detention, how will the Public Defender’s Office contact me?
4) If I am living in the community, how will I know if the Public Defender’s Office is appointed to represent me?
5) I want my lawyer to tell my family what is going on with my case--is that possible?
6) What if I don’t want my lawyer to tell my family anything about my case?
7) Where is the Public Defender’s Office located?
8) How do I contact the Public Defender’s office?

Family

1) I have a friend or family member who needs a lawyer; can the Public Defender’s Office represent him or her?
2) How does my friend or family member apply for a Public Defender to represent him or her?
3) If my friend or family member qualifies for an appointed lawyer, how will they know whether the lawyer is a Public Defender or a lawyer in private practice? Will I know who the lawyer is?
4) If my friend or family member is in jail, or juvenile detention, how will the Public Defender’s Office contact him or her?
5) If my friend or family member, who needs an lawyer, is living in the community, how will he or she know if the Public Defender’s Office is appointed to represent him or her?
6) I want to know what is going on with my friend or family member’s case -- is that possible?
7) How do I or my friend/family member contact the Public Defender’s office?




Answers to General Questions

1) What is a Public Defender?
A Public Defender is a lawyer who works for the Public Defender’s Office. A court may appoint the Public Defender’s Office to represent accused persons who do not have the money to hire a lawyer. In El Paso, the Public Defender’s Office is funded by the County and, in small part, by the State of Texas.
Back to top

2) Can other lawyers be court-appointed?
Yes. Members of the private bar may be appointed to represent accused persons who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Funding for these services come from the same sources as the Public Defender’s Office.
Back to top

3) How do I get a court appointed lawyer to represent me?
The first step is to apply for one. If you are in jail, a representative of Pretrial Services will contact you and help you fill out the application. If you are out on bond, you can go to Pretrial Services on the lower level Courthouse to apply. You will need to bring proof of your income and expenses with you. If you are already in court, tell the judge, or court staff, you want to apply, and the judge will tell you where to apply, or have someone take your application. If you meet the guidelines for indigency, the court will appoint a lawyer for you, either from the the Public Defender’s Office or the private bar.
Back to top

4) How do I know if I’m indigent?
You are indigent for the purposes of getting an appointed lawyer, if you don’t have enough money to hire a lawyer to represent you in a legal matter. The determination of indigency is made by court personnel, according to standards set by the courts and based on a person’s income and expenses. The courts have designated the Pretrial Services Office to take applications for adult cases. The 65th District Court’s Juvenile Referees, and the intake section of the Juvenile Probation Department review applications for appointed lawyers in juvenile cases.
Back to top

5) If I qualify for an appointed lawyer, how will I know whether my lawyer is a Public Defender, or a lawyer in private practice?
If the Public Defender’s Office is appointed, you will receive a letter from the Public Defender’s Office, and the order appointing the lawyer will say that the Public Defender is your lawyer. In the case that you get a visit before you have received a letter, just ask.
Back to top

6) What is a Felony?
Strictly speaking, a felony is a crime punishable by more than a year in prison. Texas felonies are classified by the seriousness of the offense. First degree felonies have a punishment range of 5 to 99 years or life. A second degree felony is punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison, while a 3rd degree felony is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison. A state jail felony is punishable by 6 months to 2 years in a state jail. Capital felonies are punishable by life in prison without parole, or the death penalty.
Back to top

7) What is an indictment?
An indictment is the paper saying the Grand Jury has found “probable cause” for a person to be formally charged with a felony. “Probable cause” is not evidence of guilt; it is only a level of proof that allows the State to accuse a person of a crime. Once a person has been indicted, he or she will be assigned to a district court and is entitled to various legal rights related to trial.
Back to top

8) What is the Complaint and Information?
The complaint is an affidavit sworn to by a member of law enforcement, usually the arresting officer. The information is the State’s official charge against a person. Like an indictment, the complaint and information is notice of the State’s charge based on probable cause, and not evidence of guilt. The legal rights of a person accused of a misdemeanor are the same as those of a person accused of a felony.
Back to top

9) What is Discovery?
Discovery is the name for getting information about the details of the State’s allegations, or charges in a criminal case. In Texas, Article 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure provides the accused the legal right to get information from the prosecutor about the case. The United States and Texas constitutional also require that the State of Texas, including prosecutors give defendants information any information they have that shows the person may not be guilty, show a State’s witness is not believable, or reduce the person’s potential punishment, or help find information which does one of that things. In El Paso County, the District Attorney for adult cases, and the County Attorney for juvenile cases, provide discovery to accused persons’ attorneys through on-line portals.
Back to top

10) What is a 28.01 hearing?
28.01 refers to Article 28.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, which guarantees accused individuals the right to file written pleadings (or motions) to the Court. These motions are filed by the lawyer to ask for a hearing on certain issues, or to invoke certain legal rights. If you decide you want to file a motion, please discuss it first with your lawyer.
Back to top

11) What does pre-trial mean?
Pre-trial means the period of time before either a trial or any other final proceedings in the case. Pre-trial doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be a trial. Courts frequently hold pre-trial hearings so that defense lawyers and prosecutors can meet with to discuss the facts of the case, the plea offer, what hearings are necessary and to prepare for hearings, including a jury trial.

Back to top

12) How is bond set or reduced?
A Bond is set by the Magistrate who informs an individual of his rights shortly after being arrested or a court, after the indictment. There are three types of bond which an accused can receive; a person’s bond can be any combination of these three types of bond.

12.1) A PR or personal recognizance bond is supervised release, and means the accused promises to appear in court for all hearings on the case. A PR bond includes a bond premium of 3% of the total amount of the bond. The person must report weekly to the PR bond office, and may be required to undergo a drug/alcohol evaluation, and/or submit to drug and alcohol testing. Persons on PR bonds also have a curfew as a condition of their bond.

12.2) The second type of bond is called a surety bond. This is the type of bond where an accused enters into a contract with a bondsman, much like an insurance policy. The Public Defender's Office cannot recommend surety bondsmen. There are a number of bondsmen in El Paso, and a list of bondsmen can be found online or in the phone book. The bonding company will require the accused or the family to pay a certain percentage of the bond amount, and may also require collateral.

12.3) The third type of bond is a Cash Bond where the accused of a family member pays the full amount in cash. This money is refunded to the payer at the conclusion of the case, minus a nominal processing charge
Please know that failure to appear in court or picking up new charges will cause the court to revoke (cancel) your bond and issue an order, or warrant, for your arrest. For PR bonds, you are required to comply with all the terms and conditions; failure to do so will also result in your bond being revoked.

Back to top

13) What is a trial?
For our purposes, a trial is a legal proceeding in court in which the accused faces the charges the State has brought against him. The jury—or sometimes the judge—decides the facts after hearing the evidence. The State (prosecution) has the burden (or responsibility) of proving the accused committed the crime. The prosecution does this by presenting evidence—testimony, physical evidence, and documents—under special rules, or Rules of Evidence.) The judge is responsible for making sure the State and the defense follow the law, and instructs the jury on how to apply the law in its verdict. If the accused has a lawyer, that lawyer has the duty of defending the accused, whether by cross-examining the State’s witnesses, presenting defense evidence, objecting to the evidence produced by the State or combinations of all or some of these things. Both the defense and the prosecution are entitled to make argument to the jury.

Trials have two parts: guilt-innocence and punishment. Guilt-innocence is where the jury determines whether the accused committed the crime charged or not. Punishment comes only if the jury makes a finding (verdict) of guilt. Either the judge or the jury can hear punishment evidence. It then becomes the State’s responsibility to persuade the judge or jury to impose a certain punishment. It is up to the defense to persuade the judge or jury to be less harsh. For both the State and the defense, the persuasion is based on evidence, like witnesses, previous crimes, or facts suggesting the defendant does or does not deserve harsh treatment.

Back to top




Answers to Client Questions

1) I cannot afford to hire a lawyer. How can I get a Public Defender appointed to represent me?
The Public Defender’s Office does not take applications for lawyers. The application process is handled by Pretrial Services, the courts, court administration and their staff. (please click here to see the list of agencies who accept applications for appointed lawyer for information about applying for a lawyer in your case). After the application has been completed, it will be reviewed by court staff, and, if you qualify, either the Public Defender’s Office, or a private lawyer who accepts appointed cases will be assigned to your case.
Back to top

2) If I qualify for an appointed lawyer, how will I know whether my lawyer is a Public Defender, or a lawyer in private practice?
If the Public Defender’s Office is appointed to represent you, or, in a juvenile case your child, you will either receive a letter from the Public Defender’s Office once you have been assigned a lawyer or be told in court that the Office will be representing you, or both.
Back to top

3) If I am in jail, or juvenile detention, how will the Public Defender’s Office contact me?
If you did not see one of our lawyers in Court when we were appointed to represent you, one of our staff will visit you within 24 hours of the Court appointing us to your case. If you are in the jail or jail annex, you will also receive a letter from our office confirming that we represent you and which case(s) our office is handling.
Back to top

4) If I am living in the community, how will I know if the Public Defender’s Office is appointed to represent me?
We will send a letter. However, if you did not get a letter because you bonded out after we received your case, please call our office at (915) 546-8185 and talk to one of our team members.
Back to top

5) I want my lawyer to tell my family what is going on with my case--is that possible?
If you ask us, we can share information with the person you approve. So that we can focus our efforts on your case, and to avoid confusion, we ask that you designate one person to be the point of contact for information. Please know that any information you ask us to share with anyone—family, friends, or other people will not be protected by the lawyer-client privilege, and they can be forced to testify about that information in court.
Back to top

6) What if I don’t want my lawyer to tell my family anything about my case?
That is your decision and you just need to make sure your lawyer knows that. Because of the lawyer-client privilege, it is our policy to keep information private and confidential unless we have permission from you to share the information with someone.
Back to top

7) Where is the Public Defender’s Office located?
Our main office is on the 5th floor of the County Courthouse, located at 500 East San Antonio, Suite 501, El Paso, Texas 79901. We also have an office at the El Paso County Juvenile Probation Department at 6400 Delta Drive, El Paso, Texas 79905.
Back to top

8) How do I contact the Public Defender’s office?
You can contact the Public Defender’s main office by phone at (915) 546-8185. The fax number is (915) 546-8186, and the address is 500 East San Antonio, Suite 501, El Paso, Texas 79901.

The Public Defender’s Juvenile Office’s phone number is (915) 849-2625. The fax number is (915) 849-2537, and the address is 6400 Delta Drive, El Paso, Texas 79905.

Please know we cannot accept collect calls. If you are in jail, however, you can call our office from the law library.
Back to top




Answers to Family Questions

1) I have a friend or family member who needs a lawyer; can the Public Defender’s Office represent him or her?
If he or she is charged as an adult with a felony or misdemeanor offense, as a juvenile with delinquent contact, or failure to pay child support, he may qualify for a Public Defender.
Back to top

2) How does my friend or family member apply for a Public Defender to represent him or her?
Applications are handled by the Courts and their staff. Only the accused can apply for a Court Appointed Lawyer; you cannot apply for one on his/her behalf. After the application has been completed, it will be reviewed by court staff, and, if he or she qualifies, either the Public Defender’s Office, or a private lawyer who accepts appointed cases will be assigned to the case.
Back to top

3) If my friend or family member qualifies for an appointed lawyer, how will they know whether the lawyer is a Public Defender or a lawyer in private practice? Will I know who the lawyer is?
Generally, the person being represented is the only one who is told a lawyer has been appointed. Friends and family are not notified of this. If our client asks us to contact you, it will be because of his request.
Back to top

4) If my friend or family member is in jail, or juvenile detention, how will the Public Defender’s Office contact him or her?
One of our staff will visit him within 24 hours of the Court’s appointment to the case. If he is in the jail or jail annex, we will also send him a letter confirming that we represent him or her and which case(s) our office is handling.
Back to top

5) If my friend or family member, who needs an lawyer, is living in the community, how will he or she know if the Public Defender’s Office is appointed to represent him or her?
We will send a letter to the address that was provided on his or her application for a lawyer letting him or her know that we will be his or her lawyer. We ask that our clients in the community contact our office so we can make an appointment discuss their cases.
Back to top

6) I want to know what is going on with my friend or family member’s case -- is that possible?
We cannot share information about any client’s case without his or her permission. Please understand that if you contact us asking about someone’s case we will not be able to provide information unless we obtain authorization from our client, and determine it is in our client’s best interest.

Back to top

7) How do I or my friend/family member contact the Public Defender’s office?
You can contact the Public Defender’s main office by phone at (915) 546-8185. The fax number is (915) 546-8186, and the address is 500 East San Antonio, Suite 501, El Paso, Texas 79901.
The Public Defender’s Juvenile Office’s phone number is (915) 849-2625. The fax number is (915) 849-2537, and the address is 6400 Delta Drive, El Paso, Texas 79905.

Please be aware that we cannot accept collect calls, however, if you in jail, you can make free calls to our office from the law library.

Back to top