Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the difference between the Public Defender's office and the Alternate Public Defender's Office?

The Washoe County Public Defender's Office initially takes every case where a person has been appointed a lawyer. The cases are then screened by staff members to see if there is a conflict of interest. Conflicts of interest can arise if the Public Defender has represented a victim or witness in a case, or if there is more than one defendant charged with the crime. If the Public Defender's Office determines that there is a legal reason it cannot represent a person, then that case is sent to the Alternate Public Defender's Office.

If the Alternate Public Defender’s office also has a conflict of interest, then a private lawyer who contracts with Washoe County will handle the case.



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Who does my attorney work for?

Every attorney employed by the Alternate Public Defender's office is an employee of Washoe County.



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How can I find out who my attorney is and when I go to court?

Once the Alternate Public Defender's Office is appointed to represent you, we will send you a letter giving you your court date and the name of your lawyer. If you have not received the letter, please call the APD office at (775) 328-3955, and ask the receptionist for the information.



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What kind of cases does the APD office handle?

The lawyers in the APD's office practice in several different courts. There are attorneys who defend adults and juveniles charged with every type of crime, from misdemeanor to murder. Some of the lawyers here work in the family court, representing parents whose children have been removed from the home and are in the care and custody of Washoe County. Lawyers also represent clients in District Court, Justice Court, and Specialty Courts.  Specialty Courts include Drug, Diversion, DUI, Mental Health, Veteran's, Young Offender, MAT, CCP, and others.



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Can you help me with my divorce, landlord/tenant issues, or small claims case?

No. Only those who are facing jail or prison time or parents who are facing losing permanent custody of their children through government action are entitled to free legal representation.

If Social Services have removed your children, placing them in the care and custody of Washoe County, you may apply for the legal representation as well. You must make the request at the Family Court, located at One S. Sierra Street, on the second floor, to being the application process.



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Can I fire my lawyer?

No. You are entitled to an attorney, but you are not entitled to the attorney of your choice. Once an attorney in the Alternate Public Defender's Office has been appointed to represent you, that person will remain your attorney until the case is concluded. Your only other option is to hire private counsel, if you can afford to do so, or to try to represent yourself, which is never a wise choice.



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How do I get a lawyer?

If you have been charged with a crime and are facing the potential of a jail sentence, you may apply for legal representation if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer. At the time of your first appearance before the Judge, let the Judge know that you would like an attorney to be appointed to represent you. You will have to meet with an employee of Court Services, who will make the determination on whether or not you qualify.

If you are a parent and Social Services have removed your children, placing them in the care and custody of Washoe County, you may apply for the legal representation as well.  You must make the request at the Family Court located at One S. Sierra Street, on the second floor, to begin the application process.



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Where are you located?

The Alternate Public Defender's Office is located at 350 S. Center Street, on the Sixth Floor, in Reno Nevada. The phone number for the office is (775) 328-3955; the fax number is (775) 328-3998.



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Is my lawyer really a lawyer?

Yes. Every attorney in the Alternate Public Defender`s Office has graduated from law school, and taken and passed the Nevada Bar Exam. In order to be employed as an attorney in the APD office, the lawyer must be licensed in the State of Nevada to practice law, and be in good standing with the Nevada State Bar.