OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER 12th JUDICIAL CIRCUIT of FLORIDA LARRY L. EGER, Public Defender Serving, DeSoto, Manatee, & Sarasota Counties


If I am arrested, should I talk to the Police?

If you are arrested, you should ask forcefully to speak to a lawyer and obtain advice from a lawyer before answering police questions.

Public Defenders represent criminal clients by court appointment only. If you feel that you can’t afford a lawyer, the Court will have you fill out a financial affidavit. If you meet the financial guidelines the Court will enter an order appointing the Public Defender’s Office to represent you.  The Clerk will review the application and determine whether you qualify for the Public Defender. Defendants whose income is at or below 250% of the federal poverty guidelines, or who are unable to pay for the services of a private attorney without substantial hardship to his family, qualify for the services of the Public Defender. Until the Court enters this order, the Public Defender cannot represent you or give you legal advice.

Absolutely. Assistant Public Defenders are lawyers who must have received a four year bachelor’s degree, then attended and graduated from a law  school, and then must qualify through the Florida Bar by passing a standardized bar exam. The Public Defender that represents you in Court is not a paralegal or secretary.

Many public defenders have several years of experience because they have dedicated their careers to representing indigent defendants. In addition, public defenders handle more cases than private attorneys and they exclusively handle criminal cases. Most public defenders are in court every week. This gives the public defender working for you much more experience in the courtroom. With higher caseloads the public defender that represents you will also have a better understanding of how your prosecutor and judge do business. Even if your particular attorney is new, he or she will have an experienced mentor assisting them.  So you will always have the benefit of an experienced attorney working on your case.

 Public Defenders do handle many more cases at a time than private attorneys. But the office also has the resources to support the volume. The Public Defender’s Office has investigators, assistants and other staff members available to investigate potential witnesses, conduct interviews, prepare documents and handle the day to day scheduling so that the attorney will be available to work on legal challenges to your case. The Public Defender’s Office also has the ability in some cases to hire expert witnesses that may be necessary for your defense.

To find out which public defender represents you in your criminal case you can call the office and ask, or click here for Sarasota, here for Manatee, or here for Desoto county to be connected to the Clerk of Court website for your county. The Public Defender’s name will be listed under your name and case number. 

No.  The application fee is $50.00.  Also, if you enter a plea or are convicted at trial, the court will enter an order requiring payment of a reasonable attorney’s fee or the court can make the fee a lien which could affect your credit.  There is no fee ordered if your case is dismissed or if you are acquitted after trial.

Not being properly advised of your constitutional rights may have consequences that will impact the ultimate outcome of your case, but the mere fact that you were not properly advised does not mean your case is automatically dismissed. It is an issue that should be brought to the attention of your attorney.

While in some cases a signed waiver of prosecution from a complaining witness will encourage the State to drop charges it is not always true.  The “victim” in any crime is the State of Florida. Even if the other people involved do not want to go forward, the State can still seek to prosecute you. A waiver does not automatically mean your case will be dropped.

Only the state attorney or the court can “drop” or dismiss a case.  Even if the complaining witness says they do not want to prosecute the case, the decision of whether to prosecute is still up to the state attorney.

No. Public Defenders only represent people in criminal matters. At times, you may be held in contempt of court for a civil issue. If the judge in a civil matter is threatening to send you to jail for contempt then it may be possible to have a Public Defender appointed to represent you. But the attorney appointed would not help with the civil case itself.


Championing the accused with the utmost professionalism and humanity