Public Defender’s Office
Office of Public Defender
Wexford Missaukee Public Defenders office is a collaboration between Wexford and Missaukee Counties to establish their first public defender office. We provide constitutionally guaranteed representation to citizens charged with a crime who cannot afford an attorney.
Our approach is to promote a criminal justice system that sets up today’s defendant for future success, whether that defendant is guilty or innocent; our vision is to address those factors that lead a defendant to come before a criminal judge.
In so doing, Wexford Missaukee Public Defenders Office will engage in an effort to reduce recidivism in our Counties and change the way our community thinks about crime and poverty.
The attorneys and staff that comprise the Wexford Missaukee Public Defender’s Office are knowledgeable, capable and compassionate. We are committed to providing the highest quality legal representation while tirelessly protecting our client’s right to a fair and equitable system of justice. We are proud to be part of the sweeping changes in Public Defense to ensure the rights of indigent defendants are upheld.
The Wexford Missaukee Public Defender’s Office formally opened on October 1, 2018 and was one of the first of its kind in northern Michigan. Indigent defendants across the country had routinely faced the criminal actions without the benefit of legal representation, largely due to their indigence. In the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), the Supreme Court ruled that the United States Constitution requires that states provide defense counsel for indigent criminal defendants.
In 2008, a report by the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA) titled “A Race to the Bottom” ranked Michigan 44th out of 50 states for per-capita indigent defense spending. The report criticized Michigan’s system for placing an emphasis on speed and savings over due process, which resulted in unequal quality of representation in different counties throughout the state. This report, in large part, led to Governor Richard Snyder signing an executive order and creating a commission in 2011 to investigate and identify ways to improve indigent legal representation in Michigan. Following the enactment of legislation, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) was formed in 2013. The MIDC released the first four standards for compliance in May of 2017: education and training of defense counsel, initial interview, expert and investigator resources, and required counsel at first appearance and other critical stages.
Wexford and Missaukee Counties have proudly embraced these changes and have been a leading partner with the MIDC since the beginning in 2018.
HOW DO I GET AN ATTORNEY FROM THE PUBLIC DEFENDER’S OFFICE?
At arraignment, the court will decide if you are eligible to have Wexford Missaukee Public Defender represent you in your court case based on financial considerations. Once you have been referred to our office, we will then appoint an attorney for you. Wexford Missaukee Public Defender can only represent you if found eligible by the court; we do not take cases for pay.
WHO IS MY ATTORNEY?
If the court finds you eligible, we will contact you within 48 hours to let you know who your attorney is. You can also call 231-444-0480 at any time and we will assist you.
The Wexford Missaukee Defender office is located on the 419 N. Lake Street, Cadillac, MI 49601.
WHEN IS MY NEXT COURT DATE?
Whenever you appear before the judge, they will schedule your next court date. If you have been assigned an attorney with Wexford Missaukee Defender, we will mail a notice to the most recent address that we have on file for you. If you have not received a notice via mail, you are free to call our office at 231-444-0480. Be sure to immediately update the office with any change to your phone number or mailing address.
IS WEXFORD MISSAUKEE DEFENDER PART OF WEXFORD MISSAUKEE COUNTY COURTS?
No. per MIDC standard 5, the Wexford Missaukee Public Defenders office is independent of the court system. We are not part of the Wexford Missaukee Court, or Prosecutors Office. Wexford Missaukee Defender operates under a state and county grant with oversight from the Michigan Indigent Defense Council (MIDC).
CAN I SPEAK WITH A PUBLIC DEFENDER EVEN THOUGH I ALREADY HAVE AN ATTORNEY?
No. Once you are represented by an attorney, our office cannot advise you.
WHAT DO I DO IF THERE IS A WARRANT FOR MY ARREST?
IF YOU ALREADY HAVE AN ATTORNEY: Let the attorney know immediately if you believe you have a new warrant.
AT ARRAIGNMENT: you will have the opportunity to talk with an attorney from Wexford Missaukee Defender about your options in a criminal case. The purpose of the arraignment is to announce the charge and maximum possible punishment to the accused; set a bond / bail amount (if any); and set a date for the next court proceeding—usually a Pretrial (misdemeanor) or Probable Cause Conference (felony).
If you have a money bond, you can talk with your attorney about reducing or eliminating bond. Local aid organizations may be able to assistance you, or you can try to make financial arrangements with family to pay your bond. You may also employ a bail-bond company.
CAN I GET SOMEONE FROM WEXFORD MISSAUKEE DEFENDER TO SPEAK TO MY ORGANIZATION OR SCHOOL?
Yes, Wexford Missaukee Public Defenders are eager to engage with our community. You can contact us at 231-444-0480 or email us at Defender@wexfordcounty.org.
ANY OTHER QUESTIONS? Please call or email us at Defender@wexfordcounty.org