Frequently Asked Questions

What are my rights if I am stopped by a law enforcement officer?
When you are stopped:


  • You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you in court.  In order to invoke this right, you must tell the officer that you do not want to speak to him or her.
  • You have the right to a spokesperson before and during any questioning.  If you cannot afford a spokesperson, one will be appointed to assist you. In order to invoke this right, you must tell the officer that you want a spokesperson.
  • You have the right to refuse to be searched or have your property searched.  There are, however, situations where law enforcement can search you or your property without consent.  Thus, while you should make clear that you do not consent to the search, you must not resist the search. 
  • You do NOT have the right to resist arrest even if you believe the arrest is “illegal.”  You must obey the officer’s commands. If you fail to follow the officer’s commands, you may be arrested on additional charges.

Who are the Assistant Public Defenders?
They are experienced trial lawyers and members of the Colville Tribal Bar sworn to protect the rights of the clients that they represent.   Additionally, our spokespersons complete and/or present ongoing legal education programs in the state each year.   

What is a conflict of interest?
A “conflict of interest” occurs when a spokesperson (or group of spokespersons) cannot represent a client due to their duty of loyalty to another client.  For example, two defendants are charged with a crime.  Defendant 1 is already represented by the Public Defender’s Office when Defendant 2 requests representation.  The Public Defender’s Office cannot represent both Defendant 1 and Defendant 2 as their defenses may be adverse to one another. 

If you are eligible for Public Defender representation but a conflict of interest is found, the Public Defender will nominate a spokesperson who does not work in the Public Defender’s Office to represent you.  This spokesperson is commonly referred to as “Conflict Counsel.”

What type of cases does Public Defender’s Office handle?
The Public Defender’s Office is only appointed in criminal matters and when the Tribes remove children. Our office only represents clients in criminal cases in which you can be sent to jail. Our office does not represent individuals on minor traffic offenses. Assistant Public Defenders are not appointed for any civil cases such as divorce, child support or child custody.

At what stages in the criminal case process does the Public Defender’s Office represent me?
Once you are found eligible, the Public Defender's Office will represent you as soon as you are charged with a crime for which you could be sent to prison and stay with your case from arraignment through every stage of the process, including the direct appeal.  You should interview with our office for representation as soon as you are charged.  As a practical matter most people are already in custody when charged and most of the time we are appointed to represent you at the arraignment.

Who will I talk to at the Public Defender's Office?
The first person you are likely to see is an investigator who will listen to your side of the story. The investigator will interview you to gather facts about your case to give to your spokesperson. It is important that you be honest and up front with the investigator and provide names and addresses of any witnesses who would be willing to testify for you at trial.

You will also talk to the spokesperson who is assigned.  Your spokesperson may decide to have you meet with a psycho-forensic evaluator, a trained professional who will determine the need for any additional information about your past history such as family life, education, skills, or drug or alcohol abuse.

Anything you say to an employee of the Public Defender’s Office must and will be kept confidential.  Your conversations with the spokespersons and staff of the Public Defender’s Office are all protected by the spokesperson-client privilege.  The Public Defender’s Office cannot disclose your confidential communications unless you agree to allow the disclosure and we will resist a court’s order to do so.

In addition to spokespersons, psycho-forensic evaluators, and investigators, the Public Defender’s Office employs paralegals, secretaries, and technical staff who may be involved in your defense as appropriate.

How can I help my spokesperson?


  • You should never discuss your case with anyone other than your lawyer or a representative of the Public Defender’s Office.  Most importantly, keep in mind that:  ALL CALLS AT THE JAIL ARE RECORDED AND MAY BE USED AGAINST YOU AT TRIAL.
  • Provide the court and your spokesperson with an accurate address and phone number.  Immediately notify the court and your spokesperson if this information changes.
  • Contact your spokesperson as soon as you receive a letter from the Public Defender’s Office advising you to do so.
  • Do not file motions with the court on your own behalf or send letters to anyone about your case as they may be used against you at trial.
  • Provide your spokesperson with a list of potential witnesses as soon as possible.
  • Be on time for court.
  • Dress appropriately for court.
Our experience has shown us that the best results occur in cases in which our client is actively involved in helping us to prepare their case.

What is an arraignment?
An arraignment is a court procedure where you will be informed of the charges against you and you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the charges. An spokesperson will represent you at arraignment and will explain your constitutional rights and the process to you. If you plead not guilty, a case review date or trial date will be set depending on the type of case.  In general, you should plead not guilty at the arraignment and interview with the Public Defender’s Office, if you have not already done so, to allow our office time to investigate your case. 

What is a case review?
A case review is a court proceeding where the prosecutor and your spokesperson meet to discuss the evidence, the witnesses, and the legal issues regarding the case. This proceeding may be an opportunity to enter a plea. Our spokespersons will review the evidence and the plea offer, discuss your options and advise you as regarding the pros and cons of accepting the offer.  If you do not enter a plea at that time, the case will be set for another case review or for trial.  Not all cases proceed to case review.  Generally, felony charges and DUI charges are scheduled for case review first while misdemeanor charges are scheduled directly for trial. .

I missed my court hearing, what do I do?
Contact your spokesperson immediately and follow his/her instructions.  Typically, you will be advised to turn yourself into the Colville Tribal Corrections Facility before 10 am on any day except Thursday.

What do I do if there is a warrant for my arrest?
You should immediately turn yourself in to the Colville Tribal Corrections Facility.  The court can then return the warrant, set future dates and release you on “unsecured bail” or set either secured or cash bail.  If secured or cash bail is set, you will remain in custody until a bond is posted.  If released, you should contact our office to schedule an interview for representation.  If incarcerated, an investigator will interview you at the jail.

Do I have a right to an appeal?
Individuals who have been sentenced to jail or ordered to pay fines or costs as the result of a criminal conviction have the right to an appeal.

How much time do I have to file a notice of appeal?
If you elect to appeal a conviction or sentence, you must file a notice of appeal within 10 days of the imposition of your sentence.

Who files the notice of appeal?
The spokesperson, whether privately obtained or court appointed, who represented you at trial is obligated to file an appeal on your behalf if you request it. This right of appeal applies to direct appeals filed after conviction.