BEFORE MAKING ANY BIG DECISIONS
You will have to make some big decisions in your case. The more you can speak with your attorney, the more informed you will be in making that decision. Speak with your attorney early, and as often as necessary. Make sure that your attorney always has your current contact information so they can reach you if there are any changes in your case. If you have a phone or in-person meeting scheduled with your public defender, make sure that you keep the meeting or call well in advance to reschedule. Public Defenders carry a high case volume, so it is sometimes impossible to schedule a last minute meeting before court.
Document everything that happened at the time of your arrest. This means taking names and contact information for witnesses, and writing down the names of any officers that were present. Start gathering relevant information about your history. This includes the contact information for family and friends, the history of your life, the circumstances of your arrest, and other relevant information that your attorney can use on your behalf.
In Kentucky, you will not be appointed a public defender until you ask for one in court. However, if you are brought in for questioning and need a lawyer before your first court date, DPA can come and represent you before appointment. Ask for a phone call and contact your local DPA office. The appropriate DPA office is listed by the county of your arrest and can be found HERE
ASKING FOR A PUBLIC DEFENDER
In Kentucky, the Court requires that you ask for a public defender after filling out the required APPLICATION FOR A PUBLIC DEFENDER
. Be sure that you fill out the form as soon as possible, and ask the court for a public defender at the soonest available time. The sooner that you have an attorney, the sooner you can start working on your case.
The top priority for many people who are newly arrested is to make sure that they get out of custody as soon as possible. Your attorney can make bond arguments on your behalf as early as your arraignment. The more information your attorney has about your ability to post a bond, the more creative they can be in their arguments. In Kentucky, the court will sometimes accept something other than a money bond. In some counties, the judge will allow you to be released if somebody else in the community will sign on your behalf. This is called a surety bond, and that signing person will be guaranteeing that you come to court and follow all the rules, or they could lose their money, or worse. Some Kentucky courts will also accept a property bond at double the value of your cash bond. Be sure to tell your attorney about any person who will sign for you, or any property that can be posted on your behalf.
PRELIMINARY HEARING (FELONY CHARGE)
At the preliminary hearing, your attorney may have limited access to information. Often, the only information available to your attorney is the citation from the police. Be sure to review the citation prior to the preliminary hearing, and tell your attorney anything you notice about the citation (i.e. if something is wrong, if something is accurate, if something is missing). You can get a copy of the citation from the clerk's office or from your lawyer. Be sure to tell your attorney what you know about your charges, or any witnesses who may have seen something important.
OTHER HEARINGS AND MOTIONS
If you have a question about a hearing or a motion, be sure to speak about it with your attorney. Your attorney will be able to help you understand the current law on the topics and will discuss with you the pro's and con's of filing a particular motion. It never hurts to discuss all ideas with your attorney. This is your case and your life. You will not feel good about your case if you cannot discuss the questions and concerns that you have about motions and hearings.
If you have a hearing, ask friends and family members to attend. If witnesses present testimony, they can take notes. Since you may not be able to take notes, you can use their notes to help you with future discussions and questions for your attorney.
TRIAL OR PLEA
One of the biggest decisions you will make in your case is whether to accept a plea offer. Before your attorney engages in plea discussions, be sure to meet with your attorney and tell them the things that are most important to you. Your attorney can use that information to negotiate a plea deal. This includes information such as: immigration status; job status; whether you have a CDL; pending cases in family court; hobbies, such as hunting, that may be impacted by a plea; and any drug or mental health issues that you have encountered in your life.
Before you decide whether to enter a plea or proceed to trial, review all discovery materials. When the discovery is available varies from county to county. Make sure that your attorney has your current contact information so discovery can be mailed to you as it arrives. Sometimes the discovery will arrive on disks. Be sure to tell your lawyer whether you have access to a computer to view those materials. If not, you can arrange to view it with your attorney at their office. While you look through your discovery materials, take notes. Be sure to tell your attorney anything that is out of place or anything that is missing. Also write down your questions so you can ask your attorney when you next meet. Make sure all your questions are answered before you decide whether to accept an offer, or proceed to trial.
Meet with your attorney to discuss any defenses available to you. Ask your attorney their thoughts on your case, what evidence is in your favor, and what evidence may be harmful to those defenses. The more information you have, the easier it will be for you to decide whether to proceed to trial or accept a plea deal.