Pima County Logo
  • Public Defender

    Pima County Public Defender 
    The Pima County Public Defender provides legal defense services to people charged with felony and juvenile offenses in Pima County. We commit ourselves to the goal of ensuring equal justice through quality legal representation, and we employ an accomplished team of professionals to achieve this end: Attorneys, Legal Secretaries, Paralegals, Investigators, Clerks, Law Clerks, and Specialized Interns. Our qualified attorneys fight to uphold the constitutional protections the law affords to those accused of crimes, and we dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of "liberty and justice for all."

    Meet our lawyers

    Mission Statement

     To provide highly skilled and vigorous representation of indigent people charged with crimes in Pima County, by tirelessly defending and seeking to expand the constitutional rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Arizona State Constitution, regardless of the income or background of the accused.

    History

    The Pima County Public Defender's Office was established in 1970 and began with a handful of lawyers and a few support staff. The office now employs lawyers, investigators, mitigation specialists, legal secretaries, paralegals, and clerical assistants. The lawyers in our law office have substantial training and experience specializing exclusively in criminal defense.

    The Pima County Public Defender handles cases ranging in seriousness from minor felonies such as drug possession to capital homicide cases where the state is seeking the death penalty.

    The Role of the Public Defender

     The Pima County Public Defender represents indigent individuals upon appointment by the Courts in felony cases, juvenile delinquency matters, appeals, and extradition hearings under the jurisdiction of either the Pima County Superior Court, Juvenile Court, or Arizona Appellate Courts.

    Criminal offenses which occur within the boundaries of Pima County may also be assigned to either the Pima County Legal Defender's Office or to the Office of Court Appointed Counsel. Criminal offenses of a misdemeanor nature occurring within the boundaries of the City of Tucson are handled through the City of Tucson Public Defender's Office with the exception of those misdemeanors that are directly related to a felony offense.

    Our Office

    All of us in the Public Defenders Office recognize the need to be vigilant and challenge the justice system to ensure that it meets the promises of the state & federal constitution. The Public Defenders Office is committed to fairness in the justice system. We believe that the rights of the weakest in society must be protected for the benefit of us all and that the protection of the liberty of one, is the protection of the liberty of all. We in our office understand that we can be a powerful tool in securing justice by ensuring that the rights provided for by the state & federal constitution be upheld.

    Our Goals and Objectives are as follows:

    • To ensure the fair, unbiased, and equitable application of criminal justice in Pima County.
    • To stand united in the commitment to serve, honor, and protect the constitutional rights of the Citizens of Pima County.
    • To remain steadfastly dedicated to the principle that no citizen shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without competent, professional, and vigorous representation.
    • To support our clients as diligent and conscientious advocates and maintain the highest levels of professional integrity.

    Meet our lawyers

    En Proceso De Construcción

    En las Oficinas de Ley del Defensor Público Condado Pima, estamos comprometidos a la meta de asegurar igualdad en justicia por medio de la calidad en representación legal. Nosotros ocupamos un grupo de expertos funcionaros públicos para alcanzar este fin: abogados, asistentes legales, ayudantes de abogados, investigadores, personal de oficinas, e internados especializados. Nuestro equipo de abogados profesionales procuran mantener las protecciónes constitucionales que la ley otorga a los acusados de crímenes, y nosotros nos dedicamos a la búsqueda de libertad y justicia para todos.

    Declaración de Misión

    De proporcionar sumamente diestra y vigorosa representación de los indígenas acusados de crímines en el Condad Pima, defendiendo inalcanzabemente y buscando expender los derechos constitucionales garantizados por la Constitución de los Estados Unidos y la Constitución del Estado de Arizona, sin tomar en cuenta los reursos o antecedentes de los acusados.

    Historia

    La oficina del Defensor Público del Condado Pima fue establecida en 1970 y empezó con un puñal de abogados y personal de oficina. La oficina de hoy emplea 80 abogados, 120 personal de apoyo como investigadores, trabajadores social, ayudantes de abogados, y personal de oficinas legales mas de la mitad de abogados llevan mas de diez años de experiencia especializando en la defensa criminal. Las Oficinas Legales del Defensor Público se encarga de casos que se extienden en seriadad desde cargos menores como crímines daniños o crímines de intrusión sin autorización hasta casos de homicidio capital en donde el estado estará en busca de la pena de muerte.

    El Role del Defensor Público

    La oficina del Defensor Público representa individuos indígenas asignados por medio de la Corte en casos de felonía, ciertos casos de cargos menores, asuntos en delincuencia juvenil, apelaciónes y audiencias de extradición bajo la jurisdicción de cualquier corte como la Corte Superior del Condado Pima, Corte de Justicia, Corte Juvenil, o la Corte de Apelaciónes Arizona.

    Ofensas Criminales que ocurren dentro de los limites del Condado Pima también pueden ser assignados a las oficinas del Defensor Legal del Condado Pima o a un abogado privado asignado por la corte. Fechorías de naturaleza menor que ocurran dentro los limites de la Ciudad de Tucson están a cargo del Defensor Público de la Ciudad de Tucson, con la excepción de esos cargos menores que están directamente involucrados con ofensas de felonía.

    Attorney-Client Consultation

    ~ For the will of the majority to be rightful, it must be reasonable; that the minority posess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. ~ Thomas Jefferson




    The Client's Responsibility

    This is the most important information that you will need to successfully manage your case:

    1) KEEP IN CONTACT WITH YOUR ATTORNEY AT ALL TIMES.

    Our office is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except on holidays; our phone number is 724-6800. Our clients can leave messages in the evenings and on weekends.

    If a client’s attorney is unavailable, the attorney’s secretary may be able to give the client the information he or she needs. The client should always ask the secretary if the lawyer is not in.

    If a client is at the Pima County jail, he or she may call our offices using the direct line at the jail. Most attorneys are in court from 8:30 to 10:00 a.m., and many go to the jail in the afternoon. Clients released from the jail should contact their lawyer soon as possible. If a lawyer calls a client, the client should make sure to return the call. All appointments made with the lawyer should be kept, and the client should be prepared and on time.

    2) BE INVOLVED IN THE CASE .

    Clients can do a lot to help their lawyer prepare their defense. If a lawyer sends a client documents (such as police reports or a grand jury transcript), the client should review them closely, and make notes of any questions to ask, or comments to make to the lawyer.

    All documents received from the lawyer should be marked “ATTORNEY/CLIENT WORK PRODUCT – PRIVILEGED” The client should not show these documents to anyone else, particularly at the Pima County jail. Jailhouse “snitches” are common; they may use these documents to learn about a person’s case, and then make up lies about the person’s “confession.”

    A client can also help a lawyer to locate witnesses that could be helpful to his or her case. Our office has professional investigators who will actually locate and contact the necessary witnesses. These investigators should always be cooperated with fully.

    3) DO NOT MAKE YOUR SITUATION WORSE.

    A client should not talk to anyone–-including friends or relatives—about the facts of the case. Persons that a client talks to could later become witnesses against the person, EVEN IF THEY DO NOT WANT TO. Statements made to those persons can then be used AGAINST the client who made them.

    OUR CLIENTS MUST AVOID GETTING ARRESTED FOR A NEW CRIME. In particular, our clients should be careful about the people they choose to associate with because “hanging out” with the wrong people can still result in the client getting into trouble.

    OUR CLIENTS SHOULD NOT DRINK OR USE DRUGS. If a client has a problem with drugs or alcohol, he or she should tell his lawyer and ask for help. A client’s lawyer can refer him of her to treatment facilities in the community, and a person who admits they have a problem and then takes steps to correct it is looked upon favorably by the Court.

    CLIENTS MUST OBEY ALL PRETRIAL RELEASE CONDITIONS. A person involved with Pretrial Services must not leave the State without permission, and should contact Pretrial Services on a regular basis.

    A CLIENT MUST NEVER CONTACT THE VICTIM IN THE CASE OR GO BACK TO THE “SCENE OF THE CRIME” UNLESS THEY HAVE PERMISSION FROM THEIR LAWYER AND THE COURT!

    4) MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION.

    Persons involved with the criminal justice system will be meeting with or seeing a variety of government officials while their cases are in the system: Pretrial Services, prosecutors, judges, probation officers, and others. Always dress in neat and clean clothes: no jeans, T-shirts, shorts, tank tops or other casual attire.

    Our clients should always be respectful. When they are in front of a judge they should always say “Your Honor,” or “Sir,” or “Ma’am.” They must never lie. They should not slouch, wear hats, or chew gum in court. Body jewelry should be kept to a minimum.

    If a client has a drinking or a drug problem, the Court may require, or the lawyer might ask the client to attend a counseling program. THE CLIENT SHOULD ALWAYS DO IT! If a client takes steps to improve his life, this can be persuasive evidence to a judge or probation officer.

    5) THE CLIENT SHOULD BE A PARTNER TO HIS LAWYER AND HELP MAKE DECISIONS.

    The clients always get to decide:

    •     Whether to go to trial or take a plea agreement
    •     Whether or not to testify

     

    The lawyer is responsible for making strategic decisions:

    •     What motions to file
    •     Whether to object to a question in court
    •     What witnesses to call, and so on . . .

     

    The lawyer will always want to hear a client’s suggestions, and will always offer an opinion about the options a client has. The sentencing laws in Pima County are not favorable to persons accused of crimes, and those charged often face difficult decisions. This can be very stressful. The lawyer’s job is to take some of the pressure of decision-making off the shoulders of the client, but the client still needs to be involved.

    6) THE CLIENT SHOULD NOT TALK TO ANYONE ABOUT THE CASE OTHER THAN HIS OR HER LAWYER, AND THE LAWYER’S PARALEGAL, SECRETARY, OR INVESTIGATOR.

    A client should avoid even talking to family or friends about the “crime” because if he or she does, it could make it possible for the State to use those persons as witnesses against the client.

    Felony or Misdemeanor?

    When the police file a complaint against an individual, the crime charged will be either a “misdemeanor” or a “felony.” A felony is more serious than a misdemeanor, and is potentially punishable by a sentence in the state prison system (and a fine of up to $150,000 plus surcharges).

    By contrast, misdemeanors are punishable by no more than six months in the Pima County jail (and a fine of up to $2,500 plus surcharges). Within a few days after the charges are filed, the police meet with the prosecutor (a lawyer for the State of Arizona), who decides whether formal felony charges will be filed.

    General Court Procedures from Arrest through Trial and Appeal

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Does the Public Defender handle matters other than criminal cases?

    By statute, the Public Defender's Office may only handle criminal and juvenile delinquency cases. For civil matters, please contact Southern Arizona Legal Aid at (520) 623-9465 or (800) 234-7252, or Lawyer's Referral Service at (520) 623-4625.

    How do I retain the services of a Public Defender?

    If a person is determined financially unable to retain a private attorney, the courts will appoint the Pima County Public Defender's Office as the legal representative. This appointment usually happens at the first court appearance which is called an initial appearance.

    In the case of a conflict of interest, or where the Public Defender's Office has reached its maximum caseload, the courts may appoint the Pima County Legal Defender's Office or an attorney from the Office of Court Appointed Counsel roster to represent the accused rather than the Pima County Public Defender.

    Can we answer "quick" legal questions?

    Unless you are a client we cannot give legal advice or answer legal questions. If you plan to proceed with your case without an attorney, the Law Library has the reference material to assist you. There is a Law Library at Pima County Superior Court, 110 W. Congress, 2nd floor, phone number (520) 740-8456.

    Can we recommend an attorney?

    We cannot recommend an attorney. However, if you would like assistance in obtaining an attorney, the Lawyer's Referral Service provides referral assistance. Call (520) 623-4625.

    Why are lawyers made available from the Public Defender’s Office?

    Under the United States Constitution we have an adversarial justice system. This means that one lawyer represents the State, another represents the accused. A fair adversarial system requires that the accused and the prosecution have attorneys with equal resources available to them in order to achieve both truth and justice in the courts. Accordingly, under the law as set forth in the United States Constitution, anyone charged with any serious criminal offense in the United States is entitled to have a lawyer representing him whether that person can afford a lawyer or not. A public defender’s sole job is to provide the best defense available to any person he represents that is accused of a serious crime.

    What relationship do Public Defenders have with their clients?

    Our clients are the first and primary concern of lawyers in our office. The lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office are committed to see that our clients are treated fairly and their rights protected throughout the entirety of the justice process.

    How do the lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office stack up against private attorneys?

    Because there are over 70 lawyers defending felony and juvenile charges, the lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office have an enormous choice of resources that are not available to sole practitioners or small law firms. These resources include investigators, law clerks and a dedicated office staff. In addition to this pool of resources, public defenders specialize exclusively in the practice of criminal law. Because of the expertise involved in investigating and defending criminal cases, private attorneys frequently charge between $10,000.00 and up to $50,000.00 or more to defend these cases.

    Do Public Defenders have enough time to devote to the cases assigned to them?

    The Public Defender’s Office is broken up into teams of lawyers. As a result other team members can provide the support of a second lawyer if needed. Trial lawyers consult with their team leaders and other attorneys in the office in seeking strategic assistance in handling their cases. So, while the Public Defender's lawyers have heavy caseloads, the office structure permits trial lawyers to have ongoing help and support in the handling of their caseloads. The office also includes support staff to assist the lawyers in the day to day handling of cases. The attorneys and staff endeavor to provide clients with the best service possible given the resources available.

    Are the Prosecutors, Judges, and Public Defenders paid by Pima County and therefore working together?

    Although the Public Defender’s Office is funded by county government, the office is an independent agency whose lawyers work for their clients exactly as private lawyers do. Lawyers working in the Public Defender’s Office are bound by the Code of Professional Conduct requiring they provide the same responsibilities to their clients that private lawyers do.

    What kind of training do lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office receive?

    There is substantial training made available for lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office. The Public Defender’s Office holds regular training sessions each week in order to ensure their lawyers are up-to-date as to existing case law and practice. In addition to regularly scheduled in-house training the lawyers attend annual statewide training courses and have the option of participating in training courses throughout the country in order to improve their trial skills. All lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office undergo continuing legal education required by the State Bar of Arizona. Public Defenders also go through regular office evaluations to ensure that they are maintaining the highest professional standards in the course of their duties.

    Are lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office sufficiently qualified to be able to handle serious felony cases?

    The Public Defender’s Office always has far more job applicants than available jobs. There is a rigorous selection process that occurs at the hiring level at the Public Defender’s Office to ensure that the only people with the highest qualifications are hired. Once hired, lawyers are then required to go through a training period before being assigned to their trial team. Lawyers then maintain a regular training schedule as prescribed by the office.

    What is the difference between a Public Defender, the Legal Defender, and an attorney in the private sector?

    The Legal Defender’s Office is similar to the Public Defender’s Office. Legal Defenders however represent people that the Public Defenders are not able to represent because of conflicts of interest or other legal reasons. The Office of Court Appointed Counsel provides a roster of private lawyers available for appointment to represent other indigents that cannot obtain the Public or Legal Defender to represent them. These lawyers work under the Office of Court Appointed Counsel to ensure the availability of additional lawyers when the Legal Defender’s and Public Defender’s caseloads become too great. Any person charged with a crime is at liberty to hire their own private counsel to represent them.

    Are Public Defenders available to represent clients outside of the criminal justice system?

    Public Defenders by law are restricted to representing persons accused of serious crimes in Pima County through the Public Defender’s Office. By law, Public Defenders are prohibited from defending anybody on any matter other than cases assigned to their office.

    Employment Opportunities

    From time to time, the Pima County Public Defender will be seeking qualified Attorneys, Legal Office Support Specialists (Legal Secretary), Legal Assistants, Social Workers, Interns and Volunteers. All other positions are filled on an as-needed basis.

    The Pima County Public Defender’s Office offers the opportunity for Attorneys to:

    • Practice criminal law or assist in the practice of criminal law in a professional environment with a team of respected and experienced attorneys, using a team approach to the handling of cases.
    • Participate in year-long training programs for new and inexperienced lawyers.
    • Develop leadership responsibilities in the training and supervision of other lawyers.
    • Participate in a program that provides practice mentors and trial assistance.
    • Focus on ensuring that justice is balanced by protecting the constitutional rights of our clients.
    • Work in an environment that includes attorneys, paralegals, legal secretaries, criminal investigators, clerical, administrative, and computer support personnel.
    • Participate in excellent in-house, State, County, and National training opportunities which far exceed the continuing legal education (CLE) requirements as established by the State Bar of Arizona.
    • Work in suitable environments across the street from the Pima County Superior Court House.
    • Utilize computerized research such as Westlaw and an office motion bank, as well as the availability of a complete criminal law library.
    • Work in an exciting and dynamic law office dedicated to assisting those people in our society least able to defend themselves.
    • Take advantage of an excellent benefits package (Pima County Human Resources).

    Application Process

    Interested applicants may obtain for review the official job descriptions for the various positions, Pima County Benefits information, and download the application fromPima County Human Resources. All job applications and resumes must be completed and submitted to the Pima County Human Resources Department. All job openings in Pima County Government are open and competitive unless otherwise noted.
    Brief Descriptions of Positions

    Attorney

    Description: Coordinates and conducts professional legal work in and out of the courtroom. An attorney may specialize in one or more areas of law such as juvenile or appellate practice and may supervise assigned personnel.

    Training and Experience:
    Graduation from an accredited school of law, admission to the Arizona State Bar at the time of appointment, and a commitment to work with indigent clients.

    Salary:
    Salary depends on experience with a minimum salary of $57,000.

    Note:
    In addition to the Pima County Employment Application, applicants for the Attorney position must also fill out the Supplemental Application for Attorneys.

    Legal Secretary

    Description: Under general supervision performs work of moderate difficulty performing a variety of legal secretarial or specialized legal/clerical tasks in direct support of a legal function and performs related work as required. For a full list of duties/responsibilities and requirements please go to the job description.

    Salary:
    Salary depends on experience with a minimum salary of $28,494.

    Paralegal

    Description: Under general supervision performs legal work of moderate difficulty assisting lawyers in case preparation and performing related work as required. For a full list of duties/responsibilities and requirements please go to the job description.

    Salary:
    Salary depends on experience with a minimum salary of $33,267.

    Criminal Invesigator Specialist

    Description: Under direction, performs work of unusual difficulty conducting highly complex and specialized investigations and preparing documentation for presentation in court, and performs related work as required. For a full list of duties/responsibilities and requirements please go to the job description.

    Salary:
    $43,680

    Law Clerk

    Description: The Public Defender’s office utilizes qualified law clerks to assist lawyers in research projects. A pool of law clerks (volunteer and paid positions) is solicited from the University of Arizona College of Law, however consideration will be given to any person who is either a 3rd year law student or a graduate lawyer. For information on clerking opportunities at the Law Offices of the Pima County Public Defender contact Nancy Arce.

    38(d) Interns

    Description: 38(d) interns are law students who are allowed to have hands on experience with an experienced attorney. They will get to follow the attorney through interviews, court hearings, and other interesting moments of an attorneys day. These students have the chance to receive Law School credit while learning some of the most interesting parts of an attorneys job. If you're a student at the University of Arizona College of Law and would like more information concerning a 38(d) Internship contact Professor Lorraine Gin at 626-3698.
    Follow UsShare this page

    The Law Offices of the Pima County Public Defender

    33 North Stone Avenue, Suite 2100
    Tucson, AZ 85701

    (520) 724-6800


    Department Home Page
    Department Hours
    Department Directory