What is a Public Defender?
A Public Defender is a lawyer provided by the Office of the Territorial Public Defender (OTPD) to represent persons charged with criminal offenses who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. Public Defenders are appointed by the Superior Court of the United States Virgin Islands under Title 5, Section 3503 of the Virgin Islands Code. All persons accused of crimes are guaranteed the right to counsel. The Public Defender Offices are manifestations of that right.
Are Public Defenders real lawyers?
Yes. All Public Defenders are licensed attorneys who have completed law school and are sworn members of the Bar in the Virgin Islands or another state on the mainland. Public Defenders are widely recognized as among the best criminal defense attorneys around the country.
How do I obtain the services of an OTPD Lawyer?
If you are charged with a crime and cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you should indicate your inability to hire a lawyer and the Court will assign you to the Office of The Territorial Public Defender if you qualify for our services.
If I am in Jail, how do I contact the Public Defender?
A representative from the Office of the Territorial Public Defender regularly visits the local jails in order to find out if anyone is in need of Public Defender attorney services.
What happens after I have been assigned to an OTPD lawyer?
Once an OTPD lawyer is assigned to represent you, that attorney will prepare your case. If you are in jail, a representative from the Public Defender’s Office will visit or call you. Your case will be investigated and your lawyer will meet with you before your court appearance to explain your case to you and to answer all of your questions.
When should I call my OTPD lawyer?
You should call or contact your OTPD lawyer whenever you have additional information about your case, or when you have the names and addresses of any witnesses that may be able to help your case. Or in the case that you are in jail, a person that can act as third party custodian or provide monetary or property should contact the office.
Should I discuss my case with anyone other than my assigned OTPD lawyer or a representative from the Office of the Public Defender?
No. It is very important that you do not talk to anyone about your case without your assigned OTPD lawyer being present or without him/her giving your permission to do so.
If I am arrested, should I talk to the police?
No. If you are arrested, you should request to speak to a lawyer and you should obtain advice from a lawyer before answering police questions. For more information on what to do if your are stopped or arrested by the police, visit our Know Your Rights page.
I forgot my Court date. How do I find out when it is?
If you have just had an “Initial Appearance” in Court, you should have been given a document that lists the date, time, and location of your next court appearance. If you do not have that paperwork, you can call the Court Clerk’s Office or contact your own attorney or the Office of the Territorial Public Defender for assistance.
How do I know who is my Attorney?
The Attorney’s at the Office of The Territorial Public Defender are assigned to different Court rooms. The Attorney assigned to your case is based on the Judge and courtroom to which your case is assigned. Each client will be assigned an Attorney at their arraignment.
When will I be assigned an Attorney/Lawyer?
You will be assigned an Attorney at Arraignment. Arraignment is the second appearance an accused has in Court.
Can I choose a Public Defender?
No. Attorneys are assigned to specific courtrooms. If your case is assigned to an attorney's designated court, then that will be your attorney.
When will I know what Judge is handling my case?
The judge that will be presiding over the duration of your case will be assigned on the day of your arraignment.
Can I choose the Judge I want to be assigned to our case?
No. Cases are assigned by the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court.
How will I know when I should appear in court?
You will be notified of your next court appearance by the Clerks Office at the Court or by contacting your Attorney.
What happens at the advice of rights hearing?
During this aspect of the criminal process the court hears testimony from witnesses to determine if there is cause to believe that an offense has been committed and that the defendant committed it.
What is Arraignment?
Generally Arraignment is the procedure in a Criminal case where the Defendant is given an opportunity to enter a formal plea, to hear the reading of the complaint or information filed against him/her, receive a Judge assignment and some upcoming court dates.
What are the types of Bail/Release?
- Cash Bail Bond. A sum of money designated in an order fixing bail and posted with the court by a defendant or by another person on his/her behalf.
- Surety Bond. An undertaking by the defendant and his sureties, jointly or severally, that the defendant shall appear for trial or any related proceeding as ordered and if he/she fails to do so, he and the sureties shall pay the Virgin Islands Government the amount set by the court as bail for the defendant, or the property used to secure the defendant's release may be forfeited. Property must be worth twice the amount of the bail. Property must be unencumbered by liens or mortgages.
- Unsecured Bail Bond. A bail bond in an amount for which the defendant is personally liable upon his failure to appear in court when ordered to do so or upon his breach of a material condition of release, but which is not secured by any deposit of or lien upon property.
- Personal Recognizance. Is a release based upon the person's own promise that he/she will appear for trial or any proceeding as ordered by the court.
(d) Third Party custodian. The court may require a third party custodian to further ensure the release and the appearance of the defendant.
Who can act as a Third Party custodian?
Generally any responsible adult the court deems fit. The third party custodian will act to ensure the individual being released complies with his/her release conditions, and if not the court will be notified of the non-compliance. A person who has no criminal record. A person living in Public Housing often will not be eligible to act as a third party custodian because many housing communities do not allow persons with active cases to live in the community if there names are not on the lease.
Is a ten percent reduction in bail automatic?
No, any reductions in bail has to be ordered by the Judge currently handling your matter.
What are the things the court considers in setting bail?
In setting bail the two main factors the courts considers is whether or not the person is a flight risk, and whether the person is a danger to the community.