TITLE

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: Who Will Help The Attorney Defend Me In Court?

line
I want to hire a private detective to talk to witnesses in my case, but I cannot afford to do so. Does the Public Defender's Office have investigators who can look for evidence that will help me?

The Office of the Public Defender has a staff of highly trained and experienced investigators. Their job is to track down any witnesses and obtain any physical evidence that might prove a client's innocence or demonstrate a weakness in the prosecutor's case against the client. They may also take photographs, draw diagrams, locate appropriate expert witnesses, and otherwise help with the logistics of presenting a defense. These individuals are also quite skilled in interviewing anyone who may have an impact on the outcome of a client's case.

Quite frequently, it is due to the work by a dedicated Public Defender investigator that an innocent client is released from custody. Other times that work helps to obtain lighter sentences for individuals who have been convicted.

line

I know my attorney can't repeat anything I say to him in confidence. But how can I be sure that what I say to a Public Defender investigator or paralegal will be kept confidential?

The attorney-client privilege concerns the confidential communication between lawyer and client which cannot be disclosed to anyone without the consent of the client. This same privilege extends to all employees of the Public Defender's Office.

One of my family members has been charged in a very serious felony case. After meeting his attorney, we were told to speak with a paralegal about the case. What is a paralegal and why should we talk to this person?

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. Paralegals can work in any area of law, from civil litigation to corporate finance or entertainment 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. Similar to attorneys, they are further required to take additional training throughout their careers, so that they may better serve the needs of the client. In their assignments as legal assistants, paralegals are charged with doing legal research and writing, conducting client and witness interviews, as well as assisting the attorney with trial preparation.

The paralegal has 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.

©2012 Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office. All Rights Reserved.