I am homeless. Can I go to Homeless Court?

Answer: Participation in Homeless Court Program (HCP) requires a referral from a local homeless-service agency that already makes referrals into the HCP (see tab on Participating Agencies). If your agency is not listed, please have your case worker contact us. If you are currently homeless and not in a program, you should pick an agency that works best for your needs. This ensures that you select the agency and services that best fit your needs, instead of the court, prosecution, or law enforcement directing you to a program.

Your work in the agency will determine your eligibility for Homeless Court. These accomplishments are the activities you engage in, such as self-help classes (e.g., life skills; AA/NA meetings; counseling; employment or computer skills; medical treatment, whether physical or mental health). Ideally, these activities meet your need to move from the street through the program to self-sufficiency. This is what the court and prosecution recognize to resolve your case. This is why there are no fines or threat of custody in the HCP. That does not mean you can challenge the court by saying it cannot incarcerate you – it still retains the power to incarcerate. The HCP recognizes that incarceration is counterproductive to people working to reclaim their lives. The HCP realizes that the work people do in their program activities is necessary to promote public and individual safety.

Please see the “Participating Agencies” page for more information on eligibility and to determine which agency is best for you.

I am in a program now. Can I go to Homeless Court? 

Answer: Your participation in Homeless Court is based on the accomplishments you have made by working with your homeless service agency. Each agency has different eligibility requirements to participate in Homeless Court. Contact your case manager in your program to see if you meet those requirements. For a comprehensive list of agencies that refer clients into the HCP, please see the tab on Participating Agencies.

What types of cases are heard in Homeless Court? 

Answer: A full range of misdemeanor offenses and infractions are heard in Homeless Court with the exception of offenses for domestic violence, drug court, Proposition 36, parking tickets, and felonies.

I owe a lot of fines. Will Homeless Court help me?

Answer: Homeless Court addresses both active cases and further proceedings. Active cases are cases where you have yet to appear in court or enter a plea. Further proceedings are cases where you have appeared in court, but you still owe certain terms and conditions of probation such as fines, AA meetings, MADD, or public work service. It is possible to have outstanding fines be deemed satisfied in lieu of your participation in your homeless service agency program.

I have a ticket from outside San Diego County. Can I still go to Homeless Court?

Answer: San Diego Homeless Court addresses offenses from San Diego County only. You must address outstanding tickets with the court having jurisdiction over that matter. You should contact that court or public defender to pursue these cases. Ask them if they have a Homeless Court Program or if they will recognize your accomplishments in program activities to resolve your case. To resolve your other tickets, contact the public defender in the county where the incident occurred and ask if the county has a Homeless Court Program.

How do I find out if I have a warrant for my arrest?

Answer: To find out if you have a warrant for your arrest, visit the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department web page at http://apps.sdsheriff.net/warrant/waar.aspx and do a name search, or contact the Sheriff’s Office at (858) 974-2110.

What happens if I have a warrant for my arrest?

Answer: If you are currently represented by an attorney, inform him or her immediately. The attorney can place you on the court’s calendar to clear it up. If you do not have an attorney, call the Sheriff’s number above and find out which court issued the warrant. You will then need to either hire an attorney to take care of calendaring it; or you can calendar it yourself by going to the court clerk’s office with either the warrant number or case number.

Quite often, if you appear before 8:30 a.m., you can stay and take care of the matter that same day. Bear in mind there are no guarantees that you will not be arrested on the warrant until you appear in court, depending on why the warrant was issued. There is normally a duty Public Defender available in court to assist you when you appear in front of the judge. You will have to fill out a financial declaration to qualify for the services of a Public Defender. If you do not qualify for the Public Defender, you can request a continuance to hire your own attorney, or you may only have to pay a fee for the one day. You can usually resolve the matter that day, if it is a minor one. If not, the court can recall the warrant, set future dates, and either release you on your “own recognizance” or set bail. If bail is set, you will remain in custody until a bond is posted.

Will I be taken into custody or sent to jail?

Answer: The Homeless Court Program key players (judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and homeless shelters or service agencies) agree, “No one goes into custody against his or her will.” This does not mean that the prosecution gives up its power to ask for custody, and the court does not relinquish its authority to incarcerate. Rather, this agreement acknowledges that the participants have both committed offenses and met court requirements through work in their programs. This agreement respects the relationship and trust the homeless-service agencies hold with the participants who appear before the Homeless Court Program, and it acknowledges that time spent working with these agencies is equivalent to, and more constructive than, time spent in custody.

What if my program does not participate in the Homeless Court Program? 

Answer: To go to Homeless Court, you need to be involved with a local homeless-service agency that participates in Homeless Court. See “Participating Agencies” tab for more information.

I just got a ticket last week. Can I go to Homeless Court? 

Answer: Not usually. Your case must be in the court system to be addressed at Homeless Court.