Public Defender

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.        U.S. Const. amend. VI.

Public Defenders are court-appointed lawyers who represent people charged with criminal offenses who can’t hire their own lawyers. Public Defenders may also be appointed to represent minors in juvenile delinquency cases and parents accused of abusing or neglecting their children.


Public Defenders are appointed by the Court. If you have a case where the Public Defender can be appointed, the judge should tell you that during your first appearance in court. If you request a Public Defender the judge will ask you about your finances, ie. your income, assets, debts and dependents. If you are “indigent” the judge will appoint the Public Defender.

No! The Public Defender’s Office does not handle client funds in any form for any purpose. We do not collect or distribute fees for services, reimbursements, fines, costs, bail, or restitution. We do not hold cash, checks or any other tender, assets, or instruments on behalf of our clients. We do not maintain a client trust account, and take no payments in any form.

Your public defender will never ask you for money and will refuse any offer of payment. We do not accept gifts or tips.

Illinois law does permit the court to order you to reimburse Effingham County for the some of the cost of providing a public defender. In deciding how much to charge, the judge should consider your ability to pay, the nature and complexity of the case, and the amount of time the public defender spent on it. The judge may ask the public defenders how much time they spent on the case, but we will never ask for reimbursement and we don’t negotiate reimbursements with the prosecutor or the judge. Illinois law permits the judge or the prosecutor to seek reimbursement but not the public defender. If you are ordered to pay something, that money will not go to any individual attorney or even to this office, but will be deposited in Effingham County’s general fund.

Yes. All of our public defenders are licensed attorneys in the State of Illinois. As of January 1, 2024 our public defenders have over 55 years of combined experience representing clients in Illinois courts.

No. The Public Defender’s Office is a department of Effingham County Government. All of the attorneys and staff here are full-time Effingham County employees. The Chief Public Defender is appointed by the judges of the Fourth Judicial Circuit. The Chief Public Defender is responsible for hiring and supervising the Assistant Public Defender and support staff.

Yes. The Public Defender can’t excuse your appearance in court. If you have to ask, you need to be there. You have the right to be present every time your case is called in court. Potential consequences for failing to appear in court include arrest warrants, punishment for contempt of court, forfeiture of bond, sanctions for violating conditions of pretrial release, and trial and sentencing in your absence. If you know you won’t be able to appear on your court date, contact the Public Defender’s Office immediately.

No. You have the right to a lawyer, either one you choose, hire and pay for yourself, or, if you can’t hire a lawyer, the court will appoint one for you. Cases assigned to the Public Defender’s Office are assigned by the Chief Public Defender to individual lawyers based on the nature of the case. We can’t accommodate client requests for specific attorneys.

Yes. The public defenders will never tell anyone something you told them in private. You can tell us anything. Nothing shocks us. The more we know about you and your case, the better job we can do for you. Keep in mind, though, if you decide to include other people, like friends or family, in our discussions, or if you tell other people what we talked about, there is nothing that prevents those people from talking about it.

No. Illinois Supreme Court Rules prevent attorneys from handing out police reports. However, your attorney will review and discuss the reports with you.

A criminal record can be a disadvantage in obtaining housing, employment, credit, education and many kinds of licenses. It can have immigration and child-custody consequences. As many as half the adults in Illinois have some kind of criminal record. The court cannot appoint the Public Defender to pursue expungement or sealing of a criminal record for you, and the public defenders can’t give you specific legal advice about your ability to expunge or seal a particular case some time in the future. However, the Office of the State Appellate Defender maintains very good and up to date information on the question here . Many people find it’s worth it to hire a private lawyer to help expunge or seal their criminal records.