Public Defender

Habersham County utilizes a public defender system to provide legal services to indigent defendants accused of crimes in Superior and State Courts, juveniles in delinquency and truancy proceedings, and parents in deprivation proceedings.

Additionally, the office negotiates bonds and handles bond hearings, preliminary hearings and probation revocation hearings. The office also handles interlocutory appeals and appeals to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, including any oral arguments that may be requested.

It is the policy of the Public Defender's office to provide competent defense services to indigent persons accused of crimes which include jail interviews, bail, court appearances, plea negotiations, motions and trials. In the event an indigent person is incarcerated, it is our policy to interview the person no later than three working days.

In the event the Public Defender's office cannot represent an indigent defendant due to a conflict of interest, another local attorney is appointed to represent the defendant. In such cases, the attorneys are reimbursed based on the guidelines set by the Georgia Indigent Defense Council.

The jurisdiction of the Mountain Judicial Circuit Public Defender's Office is Habersham, Rabun and Stephens Counties. These counties combine to establish a fiscal budget for the Public Defender's Office. This budget includes salaries for the Public Defender and support staff, operating expenses, and funding for technical improvements.

Separate from the Public Defender's budget, the counties are responsible for related provisions to indigent defense in the way of expenditures for appointed attorneys and court reporters. To help defray these legal expenses, thrice yearly, the Georgia Indigent Defense Council provides monies appropriated from State funds to assist the counties with the indigent defense program. The funds are distributed to participating counties as established in Guideline 4.2 from the Georgia Indigent Defense Council.

The Public Defender's Office is overseen by a tripartite committee known as the "Indigent Defense Panel." The committee is composed of one person appointed by the Chief Judge, one person appointed by the Circuit Bar Association, and one person appointed by the Chairman of the County Commission. This committee is responsible for the hiring of the Public Defender and to assist the Public Defender with the operation of the indigent defense plan.

Guidelines for Financial Eligibility

In the United States, everyone who is accused of a crime is entitled to be defended in a court of law by an attorney. But what happens when someone cannot afford to hire a lawyer? In such circumstances, the office of the Public Defender may step in to help. Below are the financial requirements taken from Poverty Guidelines released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, effective February 14, 2002, that must be met to qualify to receive this free legal service.

Size of Family Monthly Net Income
1 person $739
2 people $995
3 people $1,252
4 people $1,509
5 people $1,765
6 people $2,022
7 people $2,279
8 people $2,535