What happens if you are arrested ....

The Washoe County Public Defender's Office represents indigent persons in cases where a loss of liberty is possible. The loss of liberty can include incarceration, involuntary commitment to a hospital for treatment of mental illness, or a loss of parental rights.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor offense within Washoe County or the City of Sparks, you will be seen in either Reno Justice Court or Sparks Justice Court. If you are charged with a gross misdemeanor or a felony in Washoe County, the City of Reno, or the City of Sparks you will be seen in either Reno Justice Court or Sparks Justice Court. If you are found indigent, you will be assigned a Public Defender.

We do NOT represent persons charged in Municipal Court. If you are charged with a misdemeanor or traffic violation within the City of Reno, you will be seen in the Reno Municipal Court. Please contact the Reno Municipal Court Administrator at 775-334-2290 for indigent representation information.

If you are arrested ...

your first court hearing will be an Initial Arraignment Hearing. At this hearing you will be read the charges against you. Usually, this hearing will take place within 72 hours of your arrest. If you plead 'not guilty' you will be asked if you can afford a private attorney. If not, you will be allowed to apply for a Public Defender. Court Services reviews your information and if you qualify they will forward your case to the Public Defender's office. Please allow approximately 7 working days from the date of your application to be notified of your Public Defender. You will receive a letter from your Public Defender notifying you of your next court date, your attorney's name, and his/her phone number. Once you receive this information, be sure to contact your attorney to discuss your case! If you change your address or phone number, please advise your attorney so they can communicate with you regarding your case.

If you are charged with a Misdemeanor ...

there are three types of hearings. You may have just one or all three depending on your case. They are Pre-Trial Hearing, Misdemeanor Trial Hearing, and Plea Entry/Sentencing. Your attorney will be present to represent you throughout this process. (more information)

If you are charged with a Gross Misdemeanor or Felony ...

your next hearing will be a Mandatory Status Conference. Your attorney will be present to represent you at this hearing. This is where you will have the opportunity to discuss the details of your case with your attorney. At this time, your case will either be continued, dismissed, plea bargained, or your case may continue on to a Preliminary Hearing and possibly District Court. The Mandatory Status Conference provides an opportunity for your attorney to discuss probable cause and evidence being presented by the State. This is not a trial. There is no jury. The State does not have to prove the case 'beyond a reasonable doubt' at this time. In District Court, you will have an arraignment, trial, and sentencing/dismissal. At a trial, the State must prove every element of each charge brought against you to the entire jury and must prove the offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. (more information)