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Frequently Asked Questions


What is a public advocate?

A public advocate is someone who graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, and is licensed to practice law. In other words, a public advocate is a lawyer. All public advocates have received extensive training for juvenile court and are held to the highest standards.

How will my public advocate help me?

Your public advocate is your lawyer. Your lawyer will talk privately with you about your case. Your lawyer will explain your case to you and answer your questions. Your lawyer will keep your secrets confidential. Your lawyer will be on your side in court.

If you are younger than 18, you still have the right to have a lawyer. Your lawyer will need to meet with you without your parents in the room. Normally, your lawyer also can talk to your parents and answer their questions, if that’s okay with you. However, sometimes that is not possible. For example, in some cases, victims’ rights laws prevent defense lawyers from talking to parents.

How can I get a public advocate?

The court appoints public advocates when the person who needs a lawyer cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

If you don’t have a lawyer yet and would like to speak with a public advocate, you may call us at (602) 372-9550.

Is a public advocate free?

Public advocates are lawyers who work in juvenile court for people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. It costs a lot of money to hire a lawyer. Usually, when the court gives a person younger than 18 a public advocate, the court orders the parents to pay $400.00 to help the county for the cost of legal representation. However, the Office of the Public Advocate does not receive the money and does not know if the money is paid or not. The public advocate will work hard on the case no matter what. Also, if the parents cannot afford to pay, they can participate in a financial review process that can result in reduction or waiver of the fee.

Why is a probation officer calling me? I’m not on probation!

If you have a court case (or if you are going to have a court case soon), a probation officer is going to call you and/or your parents. This is because the probation office is gathering information for the court to use. The court will use this information to help decide whether to lock someone up and to help decide what the person must do and what rules they must follow.

The probation officer is not your lawyer. The probation officer will tell the judge what you tell him or her. Also, the probation officer cannot give you legal advice.

What happens at juvenile court?

At juvenile court, you first meet with your lawyer, and then go into the courtroom with your lawyer, who will help you. It is important to arrive at court at least half an hour before your court hearing. This way, you will have enough time to talk to your lawyer. Your lawyer will need to explain things to you and answer your questions. Then, in the courtroom, the judge will decide what will happen to you. It is important to make a good impression on the judge. It is important to be polite and to wear appropriate clothing.

Can the juvenile court take away my driver license?

The juvenile court can take away your driver license for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving with any alcohol in your body, some other driving offenses, possession or use of drugs or drug paraphernalia, doing graffiti or possessing graffiti tools, and car theft and related offenses. If you do not have a driver license, the court can take away your chance to get a driver license for these offenses. This is true even if you are too young to drive at the time of the offense, and even if the offense has nothing to do with driving. Generally, the loss of driver license is until age 18, but can be longer. For example, the loss of driver license of for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is for two years, or three years if the offense is aggravated.

What is an appeal?

An appeal is a process whereby the court of appeals checks over what the juvenile court did. The court of appeals has more power than the juvenile court. This means that the court of appeals might possibly change what the juvenile court did. But the court of appeals won’t change the outcome of a case unless the juvenile court made a substantial legal mistake. The court of appeals won’t change the outcome of a case just because someone is unhappy.

Appeals take a long time, generally at least six months. It is very unlikely that the court of appeals will change anything until the appeal ends, and only then if the person wins. Thus, if a person is incarcerated and then appeals, he will stay incarcerated during the appeals process. It also is very unlikely that the court of appeals will change child custody arrangements until an appeal ends, and only then if the person wins the appeal.

If you want an appeal, you only have 15 days from the end of your court case to start the appeal. If you want longer, then you can’t appeal. Also, your lawyer can’t start an appeal for you until you talk to your lawyer about it after court makes a final order.

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