Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the Public Defender of the 4th Judicial Circuit (Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties)?

Charlie Cofer was born in Radford, Virginia in 1952. His father was a Methodist minister and his mother was a high school chemistry teacher. He attended public schools in Fairfax County, Virginia. He graduated magna cum laude from Duke University in1974, with B.A. degrees in political science and zoology. He attended law school at the University of Virginia, receiving his degree in May, 1977. (See Bio for More)


Who does the Public Defender’s Office represent?

The Public Defender’s Office represents indigent clients accused of criminal offenses (felony, misdemeanor, criminal traffic, juvenile delinquency, or criminal contempt), or people held under the Baker Act or Sexually Violent Predator Act.

What is the difference between a private attorney and an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office?

You pay a private attorney to represent you.

An attorney from the Public Defender’s Office is called an “Assistant Public Defender” or “Public Defender”. Public Defenders are lawyers who practice criminal law. All Public Defenders are attorneys who have passed the rigorous requirements of The Florida Bar to practice law in this state.

Public Defenders from the Public Defender’s Office can only represent indigent people charged with criminal offenses (felony, misdemeanor, criminal traffic, juvenile delinquency, or criminal contempt) or people held under the Baker Act or Sexually Violent Predator Act.

A Public Defender cannot represent you until the Clerk or the Judge appoints our office to your case. Defendants must apply and qualify for the services of the Public Defender’s Office.

I cannot afford an attorney. What are my options?

If you are indigent and cannot afford an attorney, the Public Defender’s Office will be appointed to represent you. A specific Assistant Public Defender (Public Defender) will be assigned to your case within about 24 hours of our office being appointed.

How do I qualify for a Public Defender?

You need to fill out an Affidavit of Insolvency which you get from the Clerk of Court or our office. Once you have filled that out, it must be sworn to and turned back in to the Clerk’s Office to see if you qualify for our services.

If you are in jail, an Affidavit of Insolvency will be provided to you before your Initial Appearance. It is a crime to make a false statement on the Affidavit of Insolvency. It is important that you fill out the Affidavit of Insolvency completely and honestly.

Is there an application fee? Or any other costs?

Yes, the $50 Public Defender Application Fee was created by the Florida Legislature. The fee is not refundable and applies whether or not a Public Defender is actually appointed for you. However, if you do not have the money, you cannot be denied a Public Defender. The $50 fee can be paid (or payment plan arranged) at the County Clerk of Courts Office.

If you are found guilty, there could possibly be fees assessed for prosecution costs and court costs. If you are found not guilty, any of these fees which you may have paid will be refunded.

I am not indigent and can afford an attorney, so can a Public Defender still represent me?

No, if you are not indigent, you need to hire a private attorney. Statutes only allow our office to represent indigent clients.

When will I speak to my attorney?

If you are in custody, your attorney will visit you as soon as possible. Your attorney may also video-conference with you. You may always call the office to speak with him or her.

If you are not in custody, you can call your attorney to set up a time to have an office conference.

Because schedules for court vary, it is sometimes difficult to reach your attorney. If he or she is not available, you should leave your contact information and the best times to reach you.

How do I contact my attorney?

The best way to reach your attorney is to call or email your attorney directly.

Please note: Attorneys will not discuss the facts of the case with family members or friends, even if the client gives permission. If your attorney talks to others about the facts of the case and/or what the client tells them, it is a violation of the attorney/client privilege. Your attorney can explain procedural issues to family members and friends.

If I do not have my attorney’s phone number or email address, how do I make contact?

If you do not have the phone number or email address of your attorney, you can call the county office of your attorney (you will need to give the telephone operator your case number):

Duval County: (904) 255-4673

Clay County: (904) 269-6318

Nassau County: (904) 548-4750

I just got arrested; what do I do?

If you attend initial appearance at the jail (which is your first appearance within 24 hours of arrest), you will be able to speak with an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office.

If you bond out before going to this initial appearance, you can fill out an Affidavit of Insolvency with the Clerk of Courts to get our Public Defender Office appointed. It is important that you make notes for your attorney about any witnesses (names and phone numbers), any evidence that needs to be collected, and any other issues regarding your case.

****It is extremely important that you do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone other than your attorney.

When will I be released after posting bond?

Generally, the jail will release you within a few hours of posting bond.

If you are still being held in custody, it is likely that you either have another case where bond needs to be posted, a case with no bond, or an out-of-county or out-of-state case that has placed a hold on you to remain in custody.

I have a loved one in jail, how do I get them an attorney to help?

If the person does not have an attorney and has not been appointed to our office, please call our office. We can set a hearing with the court to determine who their attorney should be.

Our attorneys will not discuss the facts of the case with you as that is confidential information that falls under the attorney/client privilege.

What do the names of different court dates mean?

First Appearance – This court date is within 24 hours of the arrest. It is an opportunity to hear what the arrest was for and for the Judge to set a bond if one has not already been set.

Arraignment – This court date is normally within 30 to 60 days after arrest. It is held after formal charges have been filed by the State Attorney. It is an opportunity to hear the formal charges against you and to receive new court dates. If you are in jail, your attorney will waive your appearance. If the Public Defender has not been appointed, YOU MUST ATTEND THE ARRAIGNMENT.

Pre-Trial Hearing – This is a court proceeding in which a decision is made to either set a trial date, enter a plea of guilty, or plead no contest. You generally MUST attend a pre-trial hearing unless your Public Defender has told you not to go.

Trial – Several trials will most probably be held on the same date as yours. The Judge will set the order of the trials for that date. You MUST show up for your trial.

What happens if I miss court?

If you miss a court date, it is considered to be a “failure to appear”. At that point the Judge will likely issue a warrant for your arrest and will either set a bond or set it at no bond.

If you miss a court date, you waive your right to speedy trial. If you are having an emergency and are afraid you may miss court, please contact your attorney as soon as possible to that we can try to avoid having a warrant issued for your arrest.

Can I file my own motions?

No, if you are represented by an attorney, you cannot file your own motions. If you attempt to do this, a copy will be sent to the Judge, the State, and your attorney; the motion will not be considered.

Can I write to the Judge?

We advise against writing to the Judge. First, it is considered “ex parte communication” which is not allowed. Second, a copy of anything sent to the Judge is given to the state attorney and your attorney. It is not a good idea to write to the state attorney. Anything you write can be used against you down the line.

What happens if I am out of jail and get picked up again on a new charge?

If you get arrested on a new charge, or placed back in jail for any reason, you will need to contact the original attorney on your case as soon as possible.

How does jail visitation and phone calls work?

All calls and video visitations are recorded (except for calls made directly to your attorney and visits with your attorney). This means that every time a call is placed to a family member or friend, it is recorded. Every time a video visit happens with family or friends, it is recorded.

Please do not discuss the case with anyone other than your attorney. We have seen many cases where the jail calls and visits have been used against our clients at trial.

I cannot drive to court; how do I get to court using public transportation?

You can take a bus or taxi to court. There is public transportation near all of our offices.

What happens if I violate probation and have a warrant?

If you violate probation and have a warrant, you should turn yourself into the jail and contact your attorney immediately. You will be entitled to a hearing on the alleged violations.

How do I get my driver’s license back if it has been suspended?

There are different reasons for a suspended license. Some reasons for a suspended license may be: unpaid court costs, criminal conviction that has a suspension as part of the sentence, or a suspension because of child support issues. Your particular situation for suspension should be discussed with your Public Defender.

Can I do community service in lieu of fines and court costs?

You may in certain situations do community service in lieu of fines and court costs, but it is up to the Judge. This should be discussed with your attorney; you may also ask the Judge yourself if you could do community service as repayment or partial payment.

What is a 2-hour call?

A 2-hour call means that your case is in line for trial. It is an instruction from the Judge that you and your attorney should be ready to quickly proceed with trial with just a two-hour notice. You and your attorney are more or less on standby.

Will I get a copy of my discovery?

It is important that records of your case be kept confidential. Your attorney handles those records and sees to it that they are kept confidential. If you would like to see certain records associated with your case, please speak with your attorney.

If I am found guilty, what sentence am I facing?

The sentence would depend on the crime charged and any associated mandatory penalties, as well as the facts of the case and any prior criminal history. Sentences could possibly include probation, county jail time, or prison time at the Department of Corrections. It is important that the possible minimum and maximum penalty associated with your charge be discussed with your attorney.

Why hasn’t my public defender had my case dropped?

Once charges are filed, only the State Attorney’s Office can drop the charges. However, if the victim does not want the case to go forward, the victim may contact the State Attorney’s Office and let them know that he or she does not want to press charges. The victim may also contact our office and sign an affidavit stating such.

I had a previous DUI and did not “blow” into the breathalyzer. If I get stopped again for DUI, can I still refuse to “blow” into the breathalyzer?

Refusal to blow into a breathalyzer after a previous refusal is a first-degree misdemeanor that has a maximum penalty of one year in the county jail.

Can I change my attorney if I am not happy with him or her?

In the State of Florida you are entitled to have the Office of the Public Defender represent you if you cannot afford to hire an attorney. However, this does not mean that you are entitled to a specific attorney within the office. You will be assigned a qualified attorney based on your charges and the court division you are in.

If you are unhappy with your assigned attorney, you should first speak with him or her about why you are dissatisfied and attempt to resolve the problem. If this attempt by you and your attorney is unsuccessful, you can request to speak to the supervisor of the court division. The division supervisor can then try to work out an appropriate solution for you and your attorney.

What happens if I do not like the result of my case?

You cannot appeal if you entered a plea; you can only move to withdraw your plea. However, you need to have legal grounds to withdraw your plea; such as, you did not understand, someone forced you to enter it, etc. Your request to withdraw must be filed within 30 days.

If you went to trial and are not happy with the result, we can file an appeal. However, you need to let your attorney know as soon as possible, because we need to be appointed and file the Notice of Appeal within 30 days of your sentence.

Please keep in mind that an appeal is not a retrial of your case. An appeal reviews the court’s decision for any legal errors that may have affected the case outcome; e.g., whether any wrong legal decisions were made by the Judge in your case.

What is OR or SOR pretrial release?

OR is a release from jail on your own promise to appear.

SOR is supervised release that may be combined with a monetary bond. It requires regular reporting and compliance with any conditions imposed by the Judge at First Appearance. Failure to comply with the reporting requirements or the conditions may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.

What is a Baker Act hearing? Can the patient have a Public Defender to represent them at a Baker Act hearing?

A Baker Act hearing in an involuntary mental health commitment proceeding. Generally these occur when someone has a concern that a person is a threat to themselves or to others. The person to be committed is entitled to representation by a Public Defender.