How can I get a court to appoint a lawyer for me?
Do I need a lawyer at my arraignment?
How can I find a Private Defense lawyer?
What is a private lawyer likely to cost?
Should I represent myself in a criminal case?
Can I change lawyers if I’m unhappy with the one representing me?
Are lawyers available for defendants who can’t afford to pay one?
How Can I Get a Court to Appoint a Lawyer for Me?
Court-appointed attorneys are usually available for individuals facing criminal charges and are not financially able to hire a legal representative. The right to have an attorney during a criminal court proceeding is under the sixth amendment of the constitution. The free legal representation provided by the court ensures that everyone gets an equal chance at trial, whether or not they have the means to hire an attorney.
However, the defendant seeking free legal representation must meet a particular criterion. They must provide proof of their low income as the reason they cannot afford to hire an attorney. If the court accepts it, the defendant will either get a full-time defense attorney or a private lawyer. In either case, attorneys will only have limited resources for their clients.
If you meet the criteria, you should be ready to do the following:
Request the court to assign an attorney for you
Be ready to provide documents detailing your financial status
The chance to request the judge to appoint an attorney for you comes during your first appearance in court. It is time you are arraigned in court for a bail hearing. Most probably, the judge will inquire from you whether or not you have legal representation. If not, he/she will ask you if you want to request for the court-appointed representation. In some instances, you may be able to get an attorney right there and then. In other cases, the court may delay the case, waiting to prove your economic standing and to appoint an attorney for you.
Every state has its rules regarding qualifications for getting free legal counsel. Generally, courts will consider a needy person and is at risk of getting a prison or jail sentence. If you do not meet all the requirements but still cannot afford a defense attorney’s total cost, you may still get a court-appointed lawyer to represent you in court through partial indigency. It means that after the determination of your case, you will be required to pay back part of the costs for the legal representation.
Public defense attorneys usually have large cases to work on and so may not have enough time to go through the details of your case, as a private attorney would do. However, since they work on so many cases, they are familiar with legal proceedings, and most judges and so would use that as an advantage to get you a fair outcome.
Do I Need a Lawyer at My Arraignment?
An arraignment is usually the first court appearance for a person that is facing criminal charges. This is when the defendant comes before the judge and the judge will formally introduce the charges against you. What many people do not realize is that arraignments are trials, just like other trials. You may not win your case here but could lose it altogether. Even though it appears as if you can handle that first court appearance, it is always advisable to have an attorney by your side.
Arraignments can be very tricky. When the judge formally reads your charges and asks you how you will plead. There are three pleas to choose from; plea of not guilty, guilty, and no contest. The prosecutor might also have already offered you a plea bargain on your case. It means that it can be very confusing, especially if you are not familiar with legal matters. Thus, making a costly mistake is possible.
The court will set the case for more proceedings based on the plea you have taken. He/she could opt for other trials and pre-trials. It could also be further appearances and hearings related to the plea of no contest or guilty. If you have been behind bars since your arrest, this is the time the judge will decide whether or not to release you on bail or own recognizance.
It may all seem easy, but arraignments are complicated. There is no requirement for a person to have legal representation during the arraignment, but defendants usually have a right to one. You need legal help in deciding on whether or not to accept the plea deal offered by the prosecutor. You may also need help in arguing for reduced bail. An attorney will also ensure that you enter the right guilty plea because it will not be easy to withdraw once it is done.
Therefore, if you cannot afford an attorney during your arraignment, make sure you let the judge know in advance that you need a court-appointed counsel.
How Can I Find a Private Defense Lawyer?
Criminal justice systems have the power to take away the freedoms of those accused of committing crimes. A criminal conviction could alter your life in so many ways, including denying you the freedom to meet freely with your loved ones. Thus, legal representation is allowed as the only hope a defendant has for securing their right to a fair trial. Therefore, if you are facing criminal charges, the first thing that should come into your mind is how you can find a defense attorney. If you can afford one, then you need to consider hiring a private attorney.
Private defense attorneys are those that practice on their own or in partnership with other attorneys. They usually serve a specific geographical area. Finding one should not be hard if you follow the following criteria:
Consider hiring the same attorney you had previously hired
If it is not your first time to face criminal charges, or someone you know was previously charged and hired an attorney for them, you could employ the same attorney this time around. It will save you the time and hassle of finding an excellent private defense lawyer.
Work with an attorney you know
If there is a person close to you that offers criminal defense services, this might be the person to hire for the job. He/she knows you well enough to defend you against the charges you are facing in court.
Get a referral
Ask around. You might get referrals to a good lawyer from family members, friends, or colleagues.
Find one online
The internet these days has made things very easy for those finding services and those looking for clients. Most defense attorneys have online pages through which they hired. You might be lucky to find a competent attorney near you online.
What is a Private Criminal Defense Lawyer Likely to Cost?
Hiring a private lawyer is very important if you are facing criminal charges. The kinds of criminal defense services you are going to hire will determine the outcome of your case. Thus, you need to hire a competent and experienced attorney who might reduce your chances of getting a conviction. Remember that a sentence will come with grave consequences, including jail time, hefty monetary fines, a criminal record, and loss of future job opportunities.
The cost of an attorney’s services is something that might come into your mind during this period. However, it is worth noting that there is no standard cost for a personal lawyer. The price for criminal defense varies from one case to the other. Again, the services of some attorneys are generally more expensive than those of the others. Some of the factors that will determine how much money you will pay in the end include the following:
The lawyer’s competency
A more competent attorney will charge more than one who is just starting up. In this case, competency is determined by how much experience the attorney has and the number of cases he/she has successfully represented in the past. Experienced attorneys always have a higher chance of giving your case a favorable outcome. Thus, you may have to pay a higher price if you want to use an experienced attorney for the best possible results.
The nature of the case
A more complicated case will take the attorney more time and resources to defend successfully, and so, he/she will charge more. Generally, criminal attorneys charge more for felony cases than they charge for misdemeanors.
The amount the attorney will spend in discovering the case
Some cases are straightforward and will only take the attorney a little time to gather all the facts he/she needs to plan a defense. Other cases are quite complicated and will take the attorney a longer time. Lawyers will charge more if they are spending more time in the case.
Should I Represent Myself in a Criminal Case?
Yes, a person can always represent themselves in a criminal court. However, it is advisable to carefully make that decision based on the likely punishment in case of a conviction. Everyone has a right to represent themselves and also a right to have legal representation. The decision on whether or not to hire/ask for legal counsel rests on the defendant.
However, the likely punishment in case of a conviction in a criminal court is usually grave. It means that the defendant should not take any chances of going to trial without an attorney. You stand a higher chance of winning a case if you have a competent attorney in your defense. Therefore, if you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges, hiring an attorney is the right thing to do if you are serious about avoiding jail or prison time. You should also consider other factors like the lawyer’s fees before deciding whether to hire one.
Can I Change Lawyers if I’m Unhappy with the one Representing me?
Changing lawyers in the middle of a case is allowed, depending on whether you are working with a private lawyer or court-appointed public defender. For personal lawyers, defendants are usually free to hire and fire at will, without seeking consent from the judge. However, you need a good reason and the judge’s permission to change a court-appointed attorney if you are unhappy with the one assigned your case.
Changing attorneys in the middle of a case is not always the best thing to do. It takes time for one attorney to study your case and develop a strong defense plan. It means that a new attorney will require an equally long time to familiarize with the case and organize his/her defense. This could cause delays and a lot of confusion, which could weaken the defense. However, if there is a major problem between you and your attorney that cannot be resolved, changing attorneys may be a good idea.
However, the court will not be quick to change the public defense it has assigned to your case. But in case of an irreconcilable difference, you may have another attorney assigned to you.
Note that the judge may not grant your request to change attorneys if the timing is not right. Remember that the new attorney will need sufficient time to prepare for defense. The prosecutor may disagree with the move if he/she wants to keep the case on schedule. Again, a delay could mean that the witnesses may no longer be there to testify. If the prosecutor’s argument is valid, then the judge will not grant your request.
Are Lawyers Available for Defendants who Can’t Afford to Pay For One?
Public defense attorneys are always available for offenders who are unable to pay for private services. The law accords everyone facing criminal charges a right to legal representation. If you need an attorney and you cannot afford one, you have a right to request the judge to appoint one for you.
Free legal representation will be available if you cannot afford legal services. The court may need proof of this before making a decision. However, if you can afford to pay part of the fee, the state will be willing to cater to the rest of the fee. Just let the judge know your ability/inability to afford a lawyer on your first day of a court appearance. This way, you will have enough time to prepare for the charges leveled against you.