Frequently Asked Questions

What types of cases does the City Public Defender handle?

Misdemeanor cases that occur within the Tucson city limits.

Does the City Public Defender handle other types of cases?

No. The Tucson City Public Defender’s Office does not handle felony cases, dissolution matters, child support, landlord-tenant disputes, civil lawsuits or civil traffic matters. For assistance with civil cases, please contact Southern Arizona Legal Aid at (520) 623-9465 or (800) 234-7252. You may also contact the Lawyers Referral Service of the Pima County Bar Association at (520) 623-4625 for assistance in scheduling a consultation or retaining an attorney to help you with those matters.

Do I automatically get a public defender appointed to me if I am facing a criminal charge in Tucson City Court?

No. Generally, the public defender is only appointed in cases in which the defendant is: (1) indigent, and (2) facing the prospect of a jail sentence upon conviction. This can occur when a statute requires mandatory jail time (e.g., DUI cases) or when the City Prosecutor’s Office indicates that it will ask the Court to impose jail time if the defendant is convicted. Additionally, the Tucson City Court Magistrates have discretion to appoint the City Public Defender’s Office under certain circumstances, such as when the court deems it necessary to do so in the interest of justice.

Is the City of Tucson Public Defender’s Office affiliated with the offices of the Pima County Public Defender, Pima County Legal Defender, Federal Public Defender, or the Office of Court-Appointed Counsel?

No. Although all of those offices also handle court-appointed cases, they are not affiliated with the City Public Defender’s Office.

Can a City Public Defender answer a “quick” legal question for me, even if I am not their client?

No. We can give legal advice or answer legal questions only if you are our client. However, the Law Library has reference materials to assist you if you plan to proceed with your case without an attorney. The Law Library is located in the Pima County Superior Court building, 110 W. Congress, 2 nd Floor, (520) 740-8456, and is open to the public. You may also contact Lawyers Referral Service of the Pima County Bar Association at (520) 623-4625 for assistance in scheduling a consultation or retaining an attorney.

What should I do if I have a warrant?

If you are represented by an attorney, notify your attorney immediately upon learning that you have a warrant, and then follow through with your attorney’s advice. If you are not represented by counsel, you must appear in Tucson City Court to request that your warrant be quashed. For additional information, please refer to the link for Active Warrants: http://www.tucsonaz.gov/courts/Court_Info/Active_Warrants/active_warrants.html

Can an alleged victim “drop the charges” in my case?

No. The decision of whether or not you are charged and whether your case goes forward is generally up to the prosecutor. The prosecutor may consider the alleged victim’s input regarding the matter, but that does not mean the charges will be dismissed (“dropped”). However, under certain circumstances, an alleged victim in a non-domestic violence case may choose to enter into an agreement with a defendant, or the defendant’s attorney, in which the victim recommends that the charges against the defendant be dismissed.  (Please see link for Misdemeanor Compromises http://courts.tucsonaz.gov/prosecutor/misdemeanor-compromises ).

The prosecutor may also dismiss a charge as part of a plea bargain or diversion program.

What is a plea bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor in which the defendant agrees to give up his/her Constitutional rights to a trial and/or an appeal in exchange for the benefits provided in the terms of the plea bargain.

What is a diversion program?

A diversion program results in a dismissal of the criminal charges once the defendant has completed certain requirements. The prosecutor decides whether or not a defendant is eligible for a diversion program. There are a number of different kinds of diversion programs. (Please see the Link http://courts.tucsonaz.gov/prosecutor/diversion for further information)

If I proceed to trial, will I be tried before a jury?

It depends on the type of offense with which you are charged. A defendant is entitled to a jury trial only for certain types of offenses, such as DUI. Other offenses are tried before a judge in a bench trial.

What can I do to get my judgment of guilt set aside?

You may refer to: A.R.S. § 13-907 Setting aside judgment of convicted person on discharge; application and release from disabilities; exceptions” to see if you qualify for a set aside. A set aside does not apply to persons convicted of criminal offenses listed in A.R.S.§ 13-907 D (1)-(6).

The Application and Judgment To Set Aside is available as a PDF download under “Important Documents” on our Home Page.

If you do qualify for a set aside and the court grants the motion, then the judge “shall set aside the judgment of guilt, dismiss the accusations or information and order the person be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the conviction”, except those listed in § 13-907 (C) (1).