Can You Afford to Hire a Criminal Lawyer?
So, you have absolutely no money, and you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime. Is it still possible for you to hire a criminal lawyer to help fight your case?
The word, “hire,” in this instance means you’ll be protected by the Constitution and assigned an attorney to help with your case. These attorneys are reputable, licensed and most likely work in a public defender’s office. This court-appointed criminal lawyer will be offered to you for a very small fee, if you can afford it, or free of charge.
Most states have public defender offices because there are so many defendants who aren’t able to pay an attorney out of their own pocket. But don’t think you’re getting someone who won’t take your case seriously. Often, these attorneys have gained valuable experience in cases just like yours and are fully able to work on your behalf for a positive outcome.
If your state doesn’t have a public defender’s office, they will probably assign you to someone from a local, private law firm who is skilled in this area of the law. This type of attorney will do this pro bono, or, without charge to you. The state reimburses them for their time and service.
Generally, when you first appear in court, the judge will ask you if you have a criminal lawyer or, if not, do you want one to be appointed for you. If you can’t afford one, you need to be ready to submit financial information to the judge for approval.
There’s usually no waiting period for your introduction to the court-appointed attorney. The judge will connect you with him or her immediately and finish your court appearance. Sometimes, depending on your state’s court system procedures, you’ll have to wait to meet your assigned attorney in order for the judge to review your financial situation.
But what if the courts appoint an attorney and you discover you’re unhappy with their representation? Is it possible to change attorneys in the middle of your case? Sadly, the answer is almost always no.
It’s an extremely rare event if a judge deems it necessary to change your public defender just because the two of you don’t get along. Keep in mind that your criminal lawyer and you may indeed disagree over some of the points of your case, but the disagreements are common. Sometimes it’s necessary to change when there are severe differences but this scenario is usually rare.
Some people believe, if their funds are limited, they ought to represent themselves in court. This rule must be totally dependent on how minor or severe your case is. If you’re facing possible jail time, this is not the time to be your own best defense. But charges, such as minor traffic violations, rarely need legal assistance. Major and more serious charges, which may result in jail time, should never be without the help of a qualified criminal lawyer.