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Posting High Bail and Using the Public Defender

Kevin Hogrefe is Out on $500,00 Bail and Using the Public Defender

Kevin Hogrefe posted bail of $500,000.00 and appeared at his arraignment out of custody yesterday in Ventura Superior Court. He was ordered as a condition of bail to wear and GPS tracking device and a skin monitor for alcohol. He appeared in court with a Ventura County Deputy Public Defender, Justin Tuttle.

I happen to be a fan of the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office. I think the vast majority of these lawyers are hard working, well trained defense attorney who are practicing their trade in a very tough county. This being said, when I read about Hogrefe being out on bail I was a bit surprised to read that the young man posted bail in such a high amount and was being represented by the public defender at little or no monetary cost to Hogrefe.

How does that happen? The likely scenario is that Hogrefe did not post the bail himself. He probably had help from family or friends. His family would call a bail bondsman and pay the bondsman a fee of 8 or 10 percent of the bail amount in order to secure his release from custody pending the outcome of the case. But if his family has that kind of money ($40,000 to $50,000) why don’t they pay for his lawyer? The answer to this is because they are not the defendant. In order to qualify for the services of the public defender, the defendant must be indigent. Just because Hogrefe’s family has financial resources, this does not preclude Hogrefe from using the public defender’s services for free, or close to free.

Why does a family use a public defender if they have the money to hire a private lawyer? This is always an interesting question for me. Frankly, I think Mr. Tuttle is a fine lawyer. He has been practicing law for close to 20 years, he is a veteran public defender, and in a very high profile case, he was able to fight off a second request to increase bail and get his client out of jail. It sounds to me like he is doing a good job for his client.

At this point Mr. Hogrefe can continue being represented by his public defender or he can exercise his right to hire any lawyer of his choice at his own expense. And this is where the case could get really interesting. Hogrefe is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony dui causing injury. The victim is a veteran deputy sheriff in Ventura County. This caused a great deal of media attention in the case and great public outcry from law enforcement and other citizens groups. The courthouse was packed last week with police officers and reporters and this case got a lot of publicity.

What does this mean and what happens next? A veteran lawyer like Mr. Tuttle is already planning his course of action in this case. I expect he will seek to have the case transferred out of the county because of the public attention and potential inability to get a fair trial in this county. If he is successful the case could move to some nearby county for trial. This means that if the case goes to trial, the trial would be held in another county. Thus, were Hogrefe to hire a lawyer in Ventura (or Los Angeles) to handle the case and the case got transferred to Orange County or San Luis Obispo, for example, the hired lawyer would have to go to the new county with the case. At this point I think Mr. Hogrefe should sit tight and talk to his public defender about a plan of action. Only after doing that should he consider hiring a private lawyer.

Finally, Hogrefe almost had his bail increased a second time based upon his in custody interview with the media. This, in my opinion was a very bad idea. While his own lawyer was waiting in the hallway to speak with Hogrefe, he was in custody speaking to a reporter about the facts of his case without any lawyer present. This, again in my opinion was not a good idea. My advice is and always will be the same. Don’t talk about the facts of your case with anyone other than your lawyer – unless your lawyer tells you to do so. There are some cases where media attention my benefit a client. There are cases where we might want to put a message out there about the facts or try to start to tell our side of the story. However, we do that with our lawyer, and only with our lawyer. Once we make public statements about the facts of our case, the statements can and often will be used against us. Please remember to exercise your right to remain silent. It is a precious right.

Jeffrey S. Vallens Attorney at Law

If you have questions about bail or the criminal process, call me:

(818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340