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  • Legal Defender


    The Pima County Legal Defender’s Office represents indigent individuals upon court appointment in all felony cases, direct appeal and Rule 32 post-conviction matters, and extradition hearings. Individuals charged with criminal offenses which occur within the boundaries of Pima County may also be assigned to either the Pima County Public Defender's Office or to the Office of Court Appointed Counsel.

    About Us

    The Legal Defender's Office was established in 1987 by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to defend those accused of felony criminal offenses that, for reason of conflict of interest, prior representation, or overload, the Pima County Public Defender’s Office cannot handle. Like the Public Defender’s Office, we represent adult individuals who are entitled to court-appointed counsel for felony offenses (or juveniles whose cases are transferred to adult court), criminal appeals, and other types of post-conviction relief matters. In representing its clients, the Legal Defender’s Office provides full-range legal representation that includes client visitation if the client is in-custody and appointments if the client is out-of-custody; pre-trial work (for example: preparation of various legal motions depending on the client’s and the case’s particular situation, follow-up court appearances to argue those motions, witness interviews, and case investigation); negotiation of plea agreements; trials; sentencing hearings; fugitive warrant proceedings; direct appeals and other post-conviction relief; and assistance with other aspects of felony case representation (modifications to probation conditions, reinstatement of civil rights, and other proceedings).

    Mission

    Our mission is to provide highly competent and effective legal representation for individuals accused of criminal offenses in cases brought before the Pima County Superior Court or Arizona Appeals Courts, to insure the protection of our clients’ state and federal constitutional rights, including the right to liberty, effective representation, and due process throughout the criminal proceedings.

    To fulfill our mission, we not only have well-trained and experienced attorneys, but also well-trained and experienced investigators, paralegals, mitigation specialists, secretaries, office support specialists, legal research clerks, transcribers, and interns.

    Our Attorneys

    Isabel Garcia Legal Defender
    Joy Athena Chief Deputy
    Barry Baker-Sipe Felony Trial Attorney
    Joel Chorny Felony Trial Attorney
    Jordan Cohen Felony Trial Attorney 
    Suzanne Crawford Felony Trial Attorney
    Paul Eckerstrom Felony Trial Attorney
    Eric Erickson Felony Trial Attorney
    Vince Frey Felony Trial Attorney
    James Fullin Felony Trial Attorney
    Peter Herberg Felony Trial Attorney & DUI Team
    Alex Heveri Felony Appeals Attorney
    Robb Holmes Felony Appeals Supervisor
    Dmitry Kashtelyan Felony Trial Attorney & DUI Team 
    Jeffrey Kautenburger Felony Trial Attorney & DUI Team
    Christine Makielski Felony Trial Attorney
    Scott Martin Felony Appeals Attorney
    Stephan McCaffery Felony Appeals Attorney
    Michelle Metzger Felony Trial Attorney 
    Rachel Stiles Felony Trial Attorney & DUI Team
    Stephanie Swift Felony Trial Attorney & DUI Team
    Mark Ulmer Felony Trial Attorney

    Court appointed cases fall under the following categories:

    • Felony Offense:

      A serious criminal charge that is potentially punishable by a sentence that may range from a year in the state department of corrections up to the imposition of the death penalty, and involve fines up to $150,000 plus surcharges.

    • Appeals/Post-Conviction Relief Proceedings:

      If a jury finds that the defendant is guilty of an offense, the defendant is entitled to a direct appeal, which is brought before the Court of Appeals to review for error. A defendant who had a direct appeal is also entitled to appointed counsel for a Post-Conviction Relief proceeding. A defendant who accepts a plea is only entitled to appointed counsel for two Post-Conviction Relief proceedings.

    • Extradition Proceedings:

      When another state seeks the custody of a person currently in Arizona, the other state must obtain that custody through the Extradition process in which the person is entitled to appointed counsel. The Legal Defender’s Office handles nearly all Extradition proceedings in Pima County. If the person is being supervised under the Interstate Compact, he or she is not entitled to appointed counsel.

    • Probation Revocations:

      If a judge has given the defendant probation instead of prison as punishment for committing an offense, and if the probation officer files a paper in court alleging that the defendant has violated a probation condition, the defendant is entitled to appointed counsel at all proceedings seeking to take away probation, change a condition of that probation, or at a re-sentencing (called a disposition) if the judge finds, or the defendant admits, a violation of probation.

    Does the Legal Defender’s Office handle matters other than criminal cases?

    By statute, the Legal Defender's Office may only handle criminal felony cases and extraditions. For civil matters, please contact Southern Arizona Legal Aid (520) 623-9465 or (800) 248-6789, or Lawyer's Referral Service (520) 623-4625.

    How do I retain the services of an Assistant Legal Defender?

    If the judge determines that a person is financially unable to retain a private attorney, then the judge will appoint the Pima County Legal Defender's Office as the person’s 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 Legal Defender's Office has reached its maximum caseload, the judge may appoint the Pima County Public Defender's Office or an attorney from the Office of Court Appointed Counsel to represent the defendant rather than the Pima County Legal Defender. The Court also typically orders Legal Defender and Public Defender clients to pay "attorneys fees," usually $400. This money is a token fee and goes into the General Fund and not to the Legal or Public Defender Offices or attorneys.

    What if I am not a resident of Pima County, or not a U.S. citizen?

    We represent individuals whom the court assigns us to represent, including non-Pima County residents and non-U.S. citizens.

    What is the difference between an Assistant Legal Defender and an attorney in the private sector?

    Assistant Legal Defenders are dedicated professionals and are passionate about justice. This is not to say that private attorneys are not also passionate about justice. Private attorneys are paid by the client, whereas Pima County Government pays for the salaries and resources of the Legal Defender's Office. Assistant Legal Defenders specialize in the defense of the criminally accused.

    What kind of value do your clients receive?

    Listed below are the estimated costs to defend a client accused of certain crimes by private attorneys (most private attorneys require a retention fee):
    • Death Penalty-eligible offense - $100,000 and up
    • Class 1 and 2 felony offenses (Fraud-Schemes, Manslaughter, 1st degree murder (non-death penalty), 2nd degree murder, arson of an occupied structure, armed robbery) - $50,000 - $100,000
    • Class 3 and 4 felony offenses (theft of means of transportation (Class 3), robbery without accomplice or weapon (Class 4), forgery (usually a Class 4), prohibited possessor (Class 4) - $12,500 - $25,000
    • Class 5 and 6 felony offenses and DUIs (DUIs can be misdemeanors (which we handle only if they are connected to a felony, like criminal damage) or felonies depending on how many a person has had; if a felony, they are Class 4), harassment (Class 5), and witness tampering (Class 6) and possessing or using marijuana under 2 pounds (Class 6) - $7,500 - $12,000

    Can we answer "quick" legal questions?

    Unless you are a client, we cannot give legal advice or answer legal questions. (But see our Court Process and Your Legal Rights tabs for general information.) If you plan to proceed with your case without an attorney, a law library has the reference material to assist you. There is a Law Library at Pima County Superior Court, 110 W. Congress, 2nd floor, (520) 740-8456, as well as at the University of Arizona College of Law, 1201 E. Speedway, (520) 621-5455.

    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.

    What happens in the court process?

    For information about the court process, please click on the Tab entitled "The Court Process."

    Probation

    Probation is not a reward.  Probation is an opportunity.  Your time (and your life) is not your own. 

    The only people who usually get probation are people who have never been convicted of a felony.   If you are on probation and you had prior convictions, be glad that you now have the opportunity to avoid prison.

    The idea behind probation is to give you structure so you can stay out of trouble and learn how to stay out of trouble after you get off probation.  That is why people on probation, for example, are not allowed to hang out with other people on probation, are not allowed to drink alcohol, and need to check in with their Probation Officers (POs) regularly.

    You must follow probation rules because while you are on probation, your time (and your life) is not your own.  When you are on probation, it may seem like your life is back to normal because you can eat at your favorite fast-food place or hang-out with your family, but the Pima County Adult Probation Department and the Pima County Superior Court judge who imposed your probation keep track of your time and what you do “on the outside.”

    Probation is a shock, and it’s hard.

    For most people, being on probation is a shock.  Every time you fail to follow the rules, that means you have violated a probation condition.  We’ll get to that later. 

    Not only are the rules a shock, but you may not get along with your PO because every PO is different.  Some POs approach their job in an easy-going manner.  Other POs are strict.  Both types of POs and every type in-between are truly and really trying to help you even when it seems that they are “against” you.  

    Probation is hard.  It is punishment.  It’s not as harsh as going to prison or jail, but it is designed to help you “work on getting better,” whatever that may mean in your particular situation, such as getting a job, getting your high school diploma or GED, or simply showing your PO that you can follow the rules. 

    You can succeed, you can make it.

    You can succeed on probation.  You can succeed on probation even when you have a probation fficer you don’t like (you just have to try harder).  

    You can succeed by following through with all probation rules and conditions:  report on time and in person; make sure to give your probation officer notice when there’s an emergency; report law enforcement contacts; follow all other lawful rules and orders given by your PO.  If you show your PO that you are serious about making the effort to follow the rules, even if those rules seem stupid to you, you will gain some respect from PO.

    Prison is the only other option.

    Probation is the one alternative to prison that is available in Superior Court.  There is no house arrest, there is no ankle monitoring (at least for now), and there is no community service substitute (although community service is usually a part of probation).  In other words, if you don’t want to do probation, you go to prison.  Keep that in mind the next time you are struggling to do what your PO is telling you to do, because your PO is certainly thinking about sending you to prison if you don’t do what they say.  No matter how bad things seem on probation, they are probably way better than prison.

    Getting along with your PO.

    Think of your PO as the most important boss you have ever had.  If you’ve never had a boss, then now you do.  

    If your PO is not happy with your attitude or your compliance (following the rules), they have the power to make more rules that you must follow.  

    A lot of people on probation make the mistake of thinking that they are entitled to as much respect as the PO.  Although POs are certainly supposed to treat their probationers as human beings and have minimum courtesy with their probationers, they do not owe their probationers any favors or slack.  In fact, some POs give their probationers a really hard time, which they are allowed to do—sort of like a military drill sergeant might. 

    Here is an example: Outside of the PO-probationer relationship, it would be completely inappropriate for anyone to show up to someone’s house at 2 a.m. in the morning, come inside, and look through the other person’s dresser drawers and kitchen cabinets to see if the person is hiding drugs or alcohol.  And yet, that is exactly what POs and SOs (Surveillance Officers) are expected to do with their probationers.  Don’t make the mistake of looking at your relationship with your PO through the same lens or by the same standards as the rest of your relationships.  

    Repeat the following to yourself whenever you feel your PO is just not giving you respect: “I will earn my PO’s respect!”  If you show your PO that you do what you are told and stay out of trouble, eventually your PO will back off and you will be stepped down to a lower supervision level until eventually you can finish off probation on unsupervised probation.  If you are determined to stay out of prison, do what your PO requires of you and they will respect you for it. 

    Seek help from your attorney before problems with your PO end up with you sitting in jail.

    You are not alone on probation; your lawyer can help when things just seem completely unfair.  

    Although by the time you are on probation the case is officially over and your lawyer has been relieved from any further obligations in the case, your lawyer still has a duty to you and that is to counsel you about things that relate directly to the case.  How probation is going is something that relates directly to the case. 

    If you are having trouble with probation or you feel that the PO is requiring things of you that are not appropriate or too extreme, contact your lawyer.  Your lawyer can discuss the details with you and figure out what the right thing to do is.  You and your lawyer might figure out either that (1) what you are feeling is simply the stress and anxiety that probationers are expected to experience while on probation, or (2) there are actually places where you need to step up your performance, or in rare circumstances, (3) your PO is doing inappropriate things with your supervision that need to be brought to the Court’s attention. 

    Don’t make decisions about your probation without speaking with your lawyer first! Just disappearing and falling out of touch with your PO is a sure-fire way to end up in jail and on your way to prison.  Most people can’t tell on their own why they are having a hard time with  probation, but your lawyer may be able to give you ideas about how to succeed—whether it’s a letter or phone call to the PO, a motion to the Court, or just some insight into the situation, your lawyer can help you. 

    Getting off probation.

    In Pima County, a probationer can usually only qualify for early termination of probation if he or she has paid off all fines and fees.  Until all fines and fees have been paid off, it will be difficult to end your probation supervision.  In fact, probation can be extended if you have fines, fees, restitution, and other court-ordered financial obligations that haven’t been paid. 

    In contrast, if you have paid off all of your fines and fees, call your lawyer and ask them to file a motion to terminate probation for you.  The first step is to contact your lawyer and he or she will then tell you what to do next. 

    Undesignated offenses.

    In Arizona, class 6 felonies are undesignated until a Court designates them as felonies or if the conviction is the result of a plea agreement that requires that the offense be designated as a felony.  What this means is that an undesignated class 6 felony conviction can be turned into a misdemeanor conviction.  Until that happens, however, the conviction is treated as a felony conviction.  

    Designation as a misdemeanor is NOT automatic.  

    If you never ask the Court to designate an undesignated offense as a misdemeanor, it will never stop being a felony.  Most judges will not designate a class 6 offense as a misdemeanor until the person has completed probation; however, there may be reasons a judge would be willing to do an earlier designation.  If you have questions about that, call your lawyer.  

    Picking up a new offense while you have an undesignated class 6 felony on your record means that it will likely be a felony forever.  Don’t delay asking the Court for the misdemeanor. 

    You can ask the Court for the designation as a misdemeanor yourself (there are forms available in the Pima County Superior Court Clerk’s office for people to use) or you can ask your lawyer to do it for you.  Your lawyer will be able to tell you some of the factors that will determine whether the Court is likely or not likely to designate your offense a misdemeanor. 

    Petitions to revoke probation.

    If you mess-up on probation, your PO will file a “petition to revoke” your probation.  Petitions to revoke are pleadings filed in Court before the judge who sentenced you.  The petition will contain various allegations, such as you drank alcohol, or you didn't get permission before you moved, or you weren't where you were supposed to be on your pre-arranged schedule.  99% of the time, you will be arrested and taken into custody on the petition to revoke probation.  At your initial appearance on the petition to revoke probation, you have three choices:  Admit, Deny, Decide What to Do Later. 

    If you admit one or more “allegations” (such as:  you were not where you were supposed to be on your Intensive Probation Supervision schedule, you failed to show-up in person to the PO’s office, or you failed to go to counseling), then the judge will set a disposition hearing (like a second sentencing hearing) in approximately 20 days.  The judge will usually have every sentencing option open, including putting you back on probation.  

    Option 2, Deny, means that you deny that you violated the alleged probation conditions the PO is saying you violated in the petition to revoke.  The judge will then set a Violation Hearing where the state must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that you committed one of more of the alleged probation violations.  “By a preponderance of the evidence” means that it is more likely than not that you violated your probation.  It is a much lower standard than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”  If the judge finds that you violated one or more of the probation conditions, the judge will set a Disposition hearing within 20 days after the Violation Hearing.  If the judge finds that you did not violate any probation condition, then the judge will put you back on probation. 

    Option 3, Delay, means that the judge will set another hearing for you in several days at which you can then decide whether you want to Admit or Deny. 

    Under all three options, you will almost always remain in custody. 

    Understand Your Legal Rights

    What to do if you are stopped by the police:

    • Be calm. Don't Panic. Don't run.
    • Don't hit or resist the police.
    • Be courteous. Getting smart just makes things worse.
    • Show the police your identification, when asked, or give your name, age, and address. Never lie about these facts.
    • You need not say anything else. Anything else you do or say can be used against you in court.

    When stopped in your car by the police:

    • Show your identification or give your name, age, address, car registration, and insurance documentation when asked.
    • You do not need to answer any other questions.
    • If the police want to search the vehicle you have the right to refuse the search. If they begin to search without your permission, do not attempt to stop them.

    What to do when you are arrested:

    • The police can use force if you resist arrest even if you are innocent of any crime. Don't fight being arrested!
    • If the police ask to search you, tell them you are not consenting to a search. You have a right to request not to be searched, but do not try to stop the search.
    • Advise the police that you want to remain silent until you have spoken to a lawyer (and/or your parents if you are a minor). Do not make any verbal and/or sign any written statements to the police before speaking to an attorney.
    • If you cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, you may have the right to a free lawyer.

    What to do when you are taken to the police station:

    • If you are not free to leave, ask to call a lawyer or your parents if you are a minor. You have the right to make a telephone call.
    • Remember at all these times, except when asked to identify yourself, you have the right:
      1. To remain silent.
      2. To have a lawyer and or your parents (if you are a minor) present.

    Employment

    Our office is committed to providing the highest quality legal representation for our clients. Confidentiality, courtesy and understanding in relationships with our clients, coworkers, and the courts are a major part of our service.


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    Legal Defender

    Isabel G. Garcia

    32 North Stone Avenue, Suite 800
    Tucson, AZ 85701

    Phone: (520) 724-5775
    Fax: (520) 724-7338

    Monday - Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

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