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The New Jersey Office of the Public Defender provides constitutionally mandated legal representation for adults and juveniles charged with criminal offenses who are unable to afford private lawyers. Once you have been found by the court to be eligible for public defender services, you are guaranteed certain rights as a public defender client. You also have certain responsibilities as a client including an obligation to pay reasonable costs of your representation.

Your lawyer must exercise independent, professional judgment during the course of representation provided for you. After consulting with you, the lawyer can decide what witnesses to call, whether and how to conduct cross examination, what jurors to accept or seek to have dismissed, what trial motions to make and any other decisions of a strategic or tactical nature.

It is extremely important that you not file any motions with the court on your own or send letters concerning your case to anyone other than lawyers or investigators working for the Office of the Public Defender. These letters could otherwise be used as evidence against you.

Do not discuss your case with anyone except your lawyer or investigator. Whatever you tell us is private and confidential. Remember that what you may tell a police officer, a corrections officer, a prosecutor, a paralegal, a social worker, a fellow inmate, or even a relative or friend is not legally private and could be used against you in court. Any of these people could become a witness against you without your approval.

If anyone other than your lawyer or investigator seeks to talk to you about yourself or the charges against you, do not answer. Instead, contact your lawyer or investigator as soon as possible. You have a constitutional right to remain silent. Use that right.

Any questions or concerns about your case should be directed to your lawyer. If you are in jail, questions about bail should also be discussed directly with your lawyer. Any independent action could interfere with your best possible defense.

Your lawyer has no authority to represent you on domestic violence complaints, traffic violations, or civil charges. You should advise your lawyer, however, of any such charges that may be pending against you including any from other states.

For further information, contact the Public Defender Office in the county where you have been charged. Check regional offices.