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The Department of Public Defense (DPD) provides legal representation to adults and juveniles who have been charged with a crime and cannot afford an attorney, as well as people facing civil commitment, parents who could lose their children in a dependency action, and people seeking to vacate a past felony or misdemeanor conviction. DPD works to address racial disproportionality in the criminal legal system, the collateral consequences of system involvement, and other structural and systemic issues that undermine the rights of our clients.

In 2020, DPD attorneys represented more than 15,000 individuals in King County courts and Seattle Municipal Court and handled more than 20,000 assignments. Read more about DPD's work in its 2021 Annual Report

DPD is working to secure resentencing hearings for people who are in prison on a drug conviction invalidated by the State Supreme Court's ruling in State v. Blake. Read more about our work here.


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Legal services and advocacy

DPD provides legal services to adults and youth facing a potential loss of liberty. Learn if you qualify and how to seek legal help. 

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Employment and internships

DPD is an excellent place to work. We hire people who have a passion for public defense and a commitment to social justice.

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Policy and partnerships

DPD works with partners to address systemic and structural issues that harm our clients and their communities.

Videos by DPD

If Your Loved One Is Incarcerated

Jails are frightening, and the legal system is confusing. This video walks you through the first few days of incarceration so that you're better able to support a loved one who has been arrested and put in jail. And visit this page on our website for more information about jail, the legal system, and how you can help your loved one.

The video is available with Spanish subtitles. To view it with Spanish subtitles, click “cc” at the bottom of the screen. Then click the gear symbol (or settings). Choose “subtitles,” then choose “Spanish.”

Este video está disponible con subtítulos en español. Para verlo con subtítulos en español, haga clic en “cc” en el fondo de la pantalla. A continuacion, haga clic en el símbolo del engranaje (o ajustes). Elija «subtítulos» y, a continuación, elija «Español».


What to Do If Your Child Is Removed by CPS

One of the most painful experiences a parent can face is the removal of their child by CPS. DPD's video explores this difficult issue, profiling two parents who experienced both removal and reunification and who have guidance to offer others as a result. 


Know Your Rights!

This video features three young people delivering a powerful message born of their own experiences in King County. When stopped by the police, they urge viewers, ask if you're free to leave. If you're not, ask for a lawyer, then stay quiet. 

 

What's new?

Keeping Families Together coalition applauds legislation addressing harms of foster care system

April 2021: Several organizations joined DPD in hailing the passage of two bills that will help to ensure fewer families face forced separations. One of the bills, HB 1227, in recognition of the inherent trauma of family separation, requires judges to weigh the harm of removing children from their parents and to find a causal connection between a parent's conduct and the risk of harm to a child before placing them in foster care. It also requires courts to make a finding of "imminent physical harm" prior to separating a family, narrowing the focus to the immediate situation. The other bill, HB 1194, makes changes to visitation, requiring a visit within 72 hours of removal and taking measures that will make visitation less intimidating to parents and more like quality family time. Visitation is key to ensuring family reunification down the road. Read a news release issued by members of the Keeping Families Together coalition, which worked to advance this legislation.

Legislature passes bill requiring police to connect youth with an attorney

April 2021: Police officers must connect youth who are taken into custody with an attorney before conducting an interrogation or asking them to consent to a search, thanks to a new law that puts Washington at the forefront of a national movement to protect the rights of youth. The law builds on the Youth Right to Counsel Ordinances that passed in Seattle and King County last summer. ESHB 1140 is informed by research that shows youth don’t fully comprehend their rights or understand the consequences of waiving them, making them particularly vulnerable to coercive police tactics. It will also help to address the profound racial disproportionalities in our criminal legal system. Black youth, Indigenous youth, and youth of color are arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated at much higher rates than white youth in Washington state. Read a news release.

Calling on the King County Prosecutor to help end bad police practices

August 2020: The community and DPD sent a letter to the King County Prosecutor on Aug. 3, 2020, asking him to use his "position of power to act as an immediate catalyst for law enforcement reform." Stop filing drug charges that result from law enforcement practices known to disproportionately target BIPOC -- like pretextual traffic stops or buy-busts. Read our letter here. The San Francisco DA is making these kinds of reforms in an effort to get law enforcement to end racially inflected practices. Read this piece in Slate, published Aug. 4, 2020: The police lie. All the time. Can anything stop them?   

Youth Rights Ordinance pass in Seattle and King County

August 2020: A Youth Right to Counsel Ordinance won unanimous approval from the Seattle City Council and the King County Council, helping to address a number of issues that make youth – particularly youth of color – unable to effectively assert their rights in the face of coercive police contacts. The ordinance  connects a youth to a public defender when law enforcement asks youth to waive their constitutional right to remain silent and constitutional right to an attorney (after administering Miranda warnings) or when they ask youth to consent to a search. The ordinance honors MiChance Dunlap-Gittens, who was killed by law enforcement when he was 17. Several community members and community organizations – including Creative Justice, Community Passageways, and CHOOSE 180 – championed the ordinance. Read a community letter here.  

DPD provides on-call attorney services seven days a week. If the police want to question you or you're facing another situation that requires immediate legal help, please call 206-477-8899.
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King County Public Defender
Anita Khandelwal

If you'd like to invite Anita to speak to your organization, please email DPD at dpd@kingcounty.gov. Visit this page to read a brief bio about Anita and to learn about the members of her management team.

For media inquiries, please contact Leslie Brown, communications manager, at 206-263-1364 or at leslie.brown@kingcounty.gov.