How to Get a court-appointed Attorney (Public Defender)

If you cannot afford a private defense attorney, you may qualify to receive a court-appointed attorney / public defender (or “public defender” in English) that represent you.

One of the foundations of our system of law and justice is that all accused have the right to be represented by an attorney. This can be understood simply by listening to the warning that the police of this country must give to each person at the time of arrest. Known as rights, Miranda, almost everyone in United States know this phrase of hours of police programs on television. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for you“.

It seems crazy how much you currently charged per hour for a lawyer privately. The fees between $300 and $600 are the norm. If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer privately, you could get a lawyer to represent you in your defense. Usually, the lawyer will work for the account and expense of the government. In order to obtain a lawyer to represent you, you should usually:

  • to ask the court for an appointed lawyer; and
  • provide details about your financial situation that show that you can not hire a private defense attorney.

In general, the first time you can request a lawyer to represent you will be the first time to appear before the judge after his arrest. This is called an arraignment.

The majority of the population of the country has very little idea of how it works the criminal justice system. Usually, if they arrested him and was able to pay the bail, you will have received a document that indicates that you must appear in court at a specific place, on a day and time certain. Or, if you are not able to pay the bail, you will be escorted to your first appearance before the court, usually by the sheriff’s department of your county. There, wait to be called to the court by the clerk of the court. Once you have called, the first question of the judge towards you will generally to know if you already have the representation of an attorney. If not, what is more likely is that the judge will ask if you want to request a court-appointed attorney. If your answer is yes, you will get a lawyer then and there (if there are any in the court) to help you during the rest of the arraignment. However, this lawyer is not often the lawyer that will be assigned, and some courts may seek to delay or postpone the arraignment until you have them with you to the lawyer that will represent you throughout the case. Also, some courts seek to delay future dates court and the assignment of counsel to an investigation of your financial situation to see if you qualify for an appointed attorney.

Each state and sometimes each county, will have rules that will determine if you are eligible or not eligible for a court-appointed attorney. These rules usually have the freedom to take into account the seriousness of the alleged offence or the probable length of the trial. Then, even if you earn a decent salary and can hire a private attorney to work on a cause short, the judge can decide that you are eligible to receive an appointed lawyer if the charges against you are more serious or if it appears that the trial will last for quite a bit.

Finally, if you obtain income, but they are not high enough to hire a private attorney and are not low enough to qualify for free legal assistance by an appointed attorney, the judge can give you “partial indigence”. Under this standard, it will be a court-appointed attorney, but you will be ordered to repay the state a portion of the costs of his representation during the trial.

Does the lawyer (or public defender) are good professionals?

To answer this question, it should be borne in mind that, in most situations, any legal representation in a criminal hearing is better than none. However, this does not mean that a lawyer is a little better than nothing. In fact, many public defenders and legal aid lawyers are some of the best legal minds in the world. Public defenders usually have more hours on the court and experience that many defense attorneys private that the bend in age. Is more, the public defenders have been on the side of the defense of many of the causes of the most recognized in the history of our country.

However, the time and effort that your lawyer can dedicate to your cause has diminished greatly in the last few years, because, each year, are used increasingly less government funding for these programs. With less money, this means that public defenders can spend less time on all of its causes. In some places the situation has gotten so bad that public defenders only meet with their clients for the first time in the anteroom of the court before the trial begins.

See also:

  • Do you have the right to receive a lawyer?
  • Types of free legal services
  • Do you qualify for free legal help?