The Santa Barbara County Public Defender’s Office is encouraging and requesting people who have criminal cases pending in Santa Barbara Superior Court to contact their defender’s office so they may arrange to have a deputy public defender make their court appearances for them.

“Generally, people accused of misdemeanors have a statutory right to be absent from court,” said Public Defender Tracy Macuga. “There are exceptions. In domestic violence cases the client must be present at arraignment and sentencing, and in DUI cases the client may be ordered present.”

Individuals accused of felonies must appear at their arraignment, but may be excused from future court appearances where the court accepts a waiver of appearance.

“Our goal is to assist the Public Health Department in implementing the recommended social distancing measures. Unfortunately, our courtrooms are often standing room only,” said Macuga. “As always, our primary commitment is to our clients and, right now, ensuring their health and safety is paramount.

“In order to slow the transmission of COVID-19, we must reduce foot traffic in and out of our courthouse.”

The Public Defender’s Office represents anyone who is charged with a crime and who cannot afford an attorney. Deputy public defenders are currently reaching out to their clients to arrange for future court appearances.

Individuals who are not represented by an attorney and have an upcoming court hearing on a criminal matter, should call one of their three branch locations: Santa Barbara, 805-568-3470; Santa Maria, 805-346-7500; Lompoc, 805-737-7770.

The Santa Barbara Public Defender’s Office was established in 1969. Its mission is to protect the rights, liberties and dignity of all people in Santa Barbara County and maintain the integrity and fairness of the American justice system by providing the finest legal representation in the cases entrusted to the office through compassionate and innovative advocacy with care and respect for its clients.