Public Defender's Office FAQ

If I have questions about my criminal case can the Lawrence County Public Defender’s Office answer them for me even though I haven’t been appointed to their office?

No.  You need to fill out an application and be appointed by the court in order to receive any kind of assistance from this office on your criminal, juvenile or abuse and neglect case.

How do I get a court appointed attorney?

You need to complete an application when at your initial court appearance if you have a pending criminal, juvenile, or abuse and neglect proceeding.  Once you receive court-appointed counsel, any new charges/violations require another application should you wish to have legal assistance on those charges.  The Lawrence County Public Defender’s Office must be appointed to represent you on each file that you have pending.   If you do not apply at your initial court appearance, but still wish to request court-appointed counsel, applications can be obtained from the court at your next hearing or from the clerk of courts office prior to that and need to be signed in front the judge or a notary.   Court appointments are generally not granted prior to your court hearing. 

Do I qualify for a court-appointed attorney?

You are only eligible for a court-appointed attorney to assist you with certain types of cases, such as criminal, juvenile or abuse and neglect proceedings.  Based upon information submitted in your application, the court will make a determination whether or not you qualify financially to be appointed an attorney.

What circumstances do not qualify for Court appointed counsel?

Lawrence County does not provide counsel to indigent persons in other circumstances, including but not limited to:

  •  An individual charged with a Class II misdemeanor or petty offense where the court has determined that there is no possibility of jail and the Lawrence County State’s Attorney is not seeking any jail.
  •  Landlord/tenant disputes.
  •  Municipal ordinance violations.
  •  Any matters pertaining to clemency, pardons, or removal from the sex offender registry.
  •  Any civil matter to include divorce proceedings, guardianship proceedings, or child support modifications for which there is no criminal charge or implication.

Will I have to pay to be represented by the Lawrence County Public Defender’s Office?

Yes.  Under South Dakota law, every person represented by a court-appointed attorney is responsible for the repayment of the costs to the county for providing the service.  Parents and legal guardians are responsible for the repayment of legal services provided to juveniles up to a statutory limit.  The hourly rate is set by the South Dakota Supreme Court on an annual basis.  The Judge will order repayment of attorney’s fees at sentencing and you will receive a bill from the county auditor for those services.  By signing an application for a court-appointed attorney you agree to pay for the cost of services provided.

I forgot the name of my public defender.  How can I find out who is representing me?

If you have been appointed an attorney from our office, simply call the office and provide your full name.  Ordinarily that information will be enough to help staff determine which lawyer is representing you.

I forgot my court date.  How can I find out when it is?

It is important you appear for all of your court dates unless you have specifically talked to your lawyer about not being able to appear in court and he/she has specifically told you that he/she can appear without you.  Otherwise a warrant will be issued for your arrest.  If you forgot your court date, call our office and ask for your next court date.  You may also call the clerk of courts at 605-578-2040.

How do I get in touch with my lawyer?

Scheduling an appointment is the best way to make sure your attorney has all the necessary information needed to properly represent you. Scheduling an office or telephone appointment in advance, as you would for a visit with your doctor or your dentist, is the most practical way to make sure all of your questions and concerns are addressed.

Why won’t my lawyer let my family member or friend come into the office during my appointment to discuss my case?  

Attorney-client privilege only protects communications between the lawyer and the client.  By adding a third party to the communication, the communication is no longer confidential.  Some might deem the attorney-client privilege to have been waived, and the family member or friend could be subpoenaed to testify to anything he or she heard during the appointment.  Asking friends and family to stay in the hallway during appointments is intended for your protections.  If after the appointment you would still like us to speak with your family member or friend to answer any specific questions or concerns that they may have, we would be happy to do so, as long as it does not involve questions pertaining to the facts of the case that are privileged.

I know that my attorney cannot repeat anything I say to him/her in confidence.  How will I be sure that what I say to the office support staff will be kept confidential?

The attorney-client privilege protects all confidential communications between lawyer and client, and cannot be disclosed without consent of the client.  This privilege also applies to all employees of the public defender’s office.    

Web links and other info:

General information about the Fourth Judicial Circuit

Make a payment on your court fines, costs or restitution

Contact the Lawrence County Auditor to make payment arrangements for your attorney fees at:

605-578-1941 or

Lawrence County Auditor

PO Box F

90 Sherman Street

Deadwood, SD 57732