The Florida Constitution provides for an Office of the Public Defender in each of the 20 judicial circuits in the State of Florida. Each Public Defender’s Office is headed by a Public Defender, an elected state constitutional officer who serves a four-year term and is an attorney licensed by The Florida Bar. Carlos J. Martinez is the Public Defender for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, which is the same geographical area as Miami-Dade County.

The Public Defender represents indigent people charged with crimes, or in jeopardy of losing their liberty, and cannot afford to hire a private attorney. The Public Defender also represents people facing involuntary civil commitment because of mental illness or mental retardation. The Public Defender has a constitutional and ethical duty to provide zealous legal representation to every client while maintaining client confidences. 

The following sections offer a description of the progress of a typical case through the criminal justice system, including how a case is handled by the Office of the Public Defender. Some differences may exist in different judicial circuits and even in different courtrooms. Attorneys have an ethical duty to handle each case individually. Clients should listen to the advice of their lawyers when it differs from the information below. Although each case is unique, there are legal rules of procedure that apply to all felony and misdemeanor cases involving adults and juveniles prosecuted in adult court. To read the juvenile case process description, click here. A person who is arrested and becomes involved in the criminal justice system can expect to follow the process described below. In criminal cases, the plaintiff is the State of Florida and the defendant is the person accused of committing a crime. In this description, we use the word “client(s)” to describe the defendants we have been appointed to represent and the generic “he” to refer to both male and female clients. Also, in many instances the word "State" is used instead of the State Attorney's Office or the prosecution.

What Happens if I’m Arrested?

When Will I Get out of Jail?

Can the Public Defender Represent Me?

Filing of Formal Charges


I’ve Never Been in Trouble Before

How Does the Public Defender Prepare My Case?

I Want to Get this Case over With, What Can I Do?

What Happens at the Trial?

What Happens If I’m Convicted at Trial?

Can I Get this Case off My Record?



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Law Offices of the Public Defender
Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida


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