img_6137

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is my court-appointed lawyer? 

You should receive your court-appointed lawyer’s name on the first day that you appear in court.  If you did not receive or have misplaced this information, you can look up your case online at https://www.dccourts.gov/cco/maincase.jsf.  This site should give you the name of your lawyer.  If you do not have access to the Internet or cannot find your lawyer’s name, you can call PDS at 202-628-1200 during business hours and ask to speak with the Duty Day attorney.  The Duty Day attorney can look up your lawyer’s name for you.

How can I contact my court-appointed lawyer?

To find your lawyer’s contact information, go to www.dcbar.org/membership/find-a-member.cfm

If you do not have access to the Internet, you can call PDS at 202-628-1200 during business hours and ask to speak with the Duty Day attorney.  The Duty Day attorney can look up your lawyer’s information for you.

What are the charges for which I can be represented by PDS?

PDS generally represents people who are charged with the more serious offenses in D.C.  What this means is that a person must be charged with an offense that carries a potential penalty of six months incarceration or longer. 

Note:  The penalty of 180 days (which is actually less that “six months,” as defined in the law) does not qualify for our services generally.  A person must be charged with one count or more that carries a potential of 6+ months.  A person who is charged with 100 counts, each carrying a potential of 180 days, does not qualify; whereas someone charged with one count carrying a year does. 

We may make exceptions on occasion. Contact us for additional information.

Where is the Defender Services Office (DSO) located?

DSO is located in Room C-215 on the C (or basement) level of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C.

Who makes attorney appointments?

A Superior Court Judge or Magistrate Judge makes appointments for criminal, traffic, and juvenile cases.

Where and when are the first hearings for adults held?

Adults facing criminal charges will make their first appearance in courtroom C-10, on the C (or basement) level of the Moultrie Courthouse. 

These hearings are held Monday through Saturday starting at 1:00 p.m., and on Federal and D.C.-recognized holidays starting at 11:00 a.m.  There are no hearings on Sundays.

Where and when are the first hearings for juveniles held?

Juveniles facing delinquency charges will make their first appearance in courtroom JM-15, on the JM level of the Moultrie Courthouse. 

JM-15 is open Monday through Saturday and on all Federal and D.C.-recognized holidays.  Although the courtroom opens at 9:30 a.m., cases are frequently not heard until later in the day.  There are no hearings on Sundays.

What is a citation?

A citation is a document compelling an individual to come to court for formal charging in lieu of being arrested and incarcerated. 

Citations are heard each week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  Traffic citations are heard in courtrooms 115, 116, and 120 at 9:30 a.m..  U.S. citations are heard in courtroom C-10 at 9:30 a.m.

What is the difference between a respondent and a defendant?

A defendant is a person over the age of 18 that has been charged with a crime. 

 A respondent is a person under the age of 18 that has been charged in a juvenile delinquency case. 

Depending on the seriousness of the charge (s), a person under the age of 18 might be charged as an adult defendant. 

Will I have representation at my first hearing? How much will it cost?

Everyone has the right to have an attorney present at their first hearing regardless of their financial status. 

Before their first hearing, all people are interviewed to determine whether they are eligible for a court-appointed counsel.  People who are detained before their first hearing are interviewed in the holding cell.  This interview consists of basic questions, including employment status, marital status, number of dependents, property owned, and the existence of debts and liquid assets.  If the person is eligible, they will be appointed counsel prior to their first hearing.

The financial interview will determine how much court-appointed counsel will cost, if at all.  Frequently, court-appointed counsel will be free of charge to the defendant or respondent.  Occasionally, a person will be required to contribute a portion of their income to compensate for the services of their court-appointed counsel. 

What if I am not eligible for court-appointed counsel?  What will happen at my first hearing?

Any person who is not eligible for court-appointed counsel is financially responsible for counsel.  For juvenile cases, the respondent’s parent or guardian will be financially responsible for counsel.

If someone is able to do so prior to their first hearing, they or their family can retain counsel and have that person represent them at the first hearing.  If they are unable to retain counsel prior to their first hearing, the Judge or Magistrate Judge will nevertheless appoint counsel to represent them for the first hearing only, free of charge.

What is an arraignment? 

Arraignment is a court proceeding at which a criminal defendant is formally advised of the charges being brought against them.  A person is sometimes arraigned at their first hearing in court. 

Regardless of whether they are arraigned at the first hearing, a Judge or Magistrate Judge will decide at that first hearing if a person will be released before their next court date. 

What is an initial hearing?

An initial hearing is the first hearing for juvenile respondents.  At an initial hearing, a Judge or Magistrate Judge will decide if the individual will be released before their next court date. 

My loved one has been locked up.  When may I see and speak with them?  When may I speak with their attorney?

Adult court is open to the general public.  Appointed attorneys are often available to speak with family members prior to court, while access to defendants is granted to attorneys and other court personnel only.

Juvenile proceedings are closed to the general public.  Loved ones are nonetheless encouraged and sometimes required to attend court; however, loved ones are not permitted to speak with juvenile respondents prior to the initial hearing. 

What does SI or stand-in mean?

A stand-in attorney will represent the defendant or respondent for their first hearing only.  They are in court to substitute for any attorney who is unable to be at the first hearing.  The stand-in attorney handles all fugitive cases.

What are fugitive cases?

When someone has an outstanding warrant from a different state, they may be arrested on that warrant. The individual then must be presented in courtroom C-10 and advised of certain rights. 

An individual with a fugitive charge has the right to a hearing in order to challenge that they are in fact the person on the warrant.  The individual must either waive their rights to the hearing or request a hearing within thirty days. 

Are there Spanish-speaking attorneys or staff members available?

Within the CJA panel there is a small group of attorneys who are available to represent Spanish-speaking clients, and at least one  Spanish-speaking attorney is available on each day that court is in session.

PDS has numerous Spanish-speaking attorneys in the trial division.  These individuals are bilingual (Spanish/English).   Additionally, DSO has one bilingual staff member and one staff member who is able to assist with Spanish-speaking clients on a limited basis.

Parole-Related FAQs:

If I am on supervision and get a new arrest for a criminal charge, will I be released or detained on the parole warrant?

If the parole warrant has already been issued and the court releases you in the criminal case, the parole warrant will be executed and you will be detained.

How soon will my revocation hearing take place once I am detained on the parole warrant?

Within five days after your warrant is executed, you should have a probable cause hearing before the U.S. Parole Commission (Parole Commission).  These hearings are generally held at the D.C. Jail where will have the option of either being represented by a PDS attorney, representing yourself, or having a private attorney represent you.

Can I be released at the probable cause hearing?

Yes, your attorney will have the opportunity to make a request for your release, but this is a rare occurrence.

How long will I have to wait until my final revocation hearing takes place?

Final revocation hearings are generally scheduled during the probable cause hearing.  Pursuant to regulations, the final revocation hearing should be scheduled within 65 days from the date of your arrest on the parole warrant. 

You are entitled to receive a final decision in your case within 86 days from the warrant execution date.

Can I have witnesses at the revocation hearing to testify on my behalf?

Yes, you can have voluntary witnesses appear at the final revocation hearing to testify as a character witness or as a fact witness regarding a particular charge. 

At the final hearing, the Parole Commission will also subpoena witnesses to testify against you, such as your parole officer, police officer, complaining witness or other adverse witnesses.

If my case is dismissed by the court, will the Parole Commission still hold the matter against me?

The Parole Commission is not bound by any court decision; therefore, they may proceed on a charge regardless of whether the matter has been dismissed, nolle prossed, or acquitted in D.C. Superior Court. 

In practice, the Parole Commission does proceed on dismissed and acquitted charges in almost all cases.

What is the standard of proof at revocation hearings?     

The standard of proof at revocation hearings is preponderance of the evidence.  This standard of proof is lower than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard used in court, hence why the Parole Commission can proceed against you even if you were found not guilty at trial.

If I am found guilty of a new criminal offense, will the Parole Commission revoke me automatically?

Yes, a conviction meets the probable cause standard and will find you guilty of the offense by the Parole Commission. 

With a conviction, you are not eligible for a local contested hearing, but will likely have an institutional (non-contested) hearing in another jurisdiction.  The only time you will still have a local hearing is if the Parole Commission is seeking to find you guilty of a charge greater than you were convicted of in court.

If I get a sentence in a criminal case, will the Parole Commission credit me for the sentence given by the court?

If you have a sentence from court by the time you have your revocation hearing, in most cases, the Parole Commission will credit you for the sentence and serve for the violation behavior. 

If the court indicates on the sentencing order that the sentence is to run concurrent to another sentence, you will probably not receive credit.  The Bureau of Prisons makes the final determination about how the two sentences will run.

If I am on supervised release and get revoked, can the Parole Commission give me a sentence greater than the sentence ordered by the court?

Yes, regardless of the sentence issued by the court at the time of your conviction. If you are on supervised release and get revoked, the Parole Commission will order a new sentence to include time in custody and a new period of supervised release to follow. 

The maximum authorized period of time on supervision is determined by statute and can be greater than the length of supervised release imposed by the judge at sentencing.