What We Do
The Public Defender's Office consists of six divisions: Appellate, Mental Health - Misdemeanor, Mental Health - Felony, Mental Health - Civil, Magistration and Misdemeanor Trial. The Public Defender's Office represents indigent individuals as appointed by trial courts and as authorized by the indigent defense plans of the Criminal Courts of Bexar County. In addition, the department assists trial courts and the private bar in researching case law and working on suggested jury charge language. The Public Defender's office is monitored by an oversight board. Its budget is controlled by Bexar County Commissioners Court.
The Public Defender's Office is appointed by the judges of the courts of Bexar County to represent indigent defendants in seeking post-conviction relief. The judges of the misdemeanor courts, criminal district courts and juvenile courts appoint the Public Defender's Office to represent persons on appeal.
Mental Health – Misdemeanor Division
Attorneys in this division represent indigent accused persons who have been deemed to suffer from a mental illness and who are charged with a misdemeanor offense. This division provides criminal defense to this population of clients in the misdemeanor courts of Bexar County in accordance with the local indigent defense plan.
Mental Health - Felony Division
Attorneys in this division represent indigent accused persons who have been deemed to suffer from a mental illness and who are charged with a felony offense. Clients who are represented at magistration as part of the mental health diversion program by the Public Defender's Office are appointed to the mental health felony division.
Mental Health - Civil Division
This division represents "proposed patients" who are the subject of civil orders of protective custody and/or commitment proceedings in the Probate Courts of Bexar County. This division is appointed pursuant to Texas Health and Safety Code § 574.003.
The Magistration was created in 2015 through a grant from the Texas Indigent Commission. This division provides representation to indigent arrested persons suffering from a mental illness at their initial bail hearing pursuant to Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 15.17. Arrested persons who suffer from a mental illness and are represented by this division at magistration are them passed to the Mental Health - Misdemeanor and Mental Health - Felony Division to provide continuity of representation. In addition, the mission of the Central Magistration was expanded in January 2019 to include representation of persons not currently represented by counsel, who do not have a bond set and who consent to the representation for all charges.
Misdemeanor Trial Division
Created in 2014, this division provides criminal defense to indigent clients accused of a misdemeanor offense. This division practices exclusively in County Court 12.