FAQ About Criminal Defense Attorneys, Arrests, Criminal Justice and Related Issues
If you don’t qualify for free help but can’t afford the full cost of a private lawyer, you may still obtain the services of a court-appointed attorney. Most states provide for “partial indigency,” which means that, at the conclusion of the case, the judge will require you to reimburse the state or county for a portion of the costs of representation.
the judge sets a date for the next procedural event in your case
the judge considers any bail requests that you or the prosecutor make
the judge appoints a lawyer for you, if appropriate, and
the judge may ask you to “waive time” — that is, give up your right to have the trial or other statutory proceedings occur within specified periods of time.
Most people can, if necessary, handle this proceeding without an attorney. However, it’s almost always better to have a lawyer, whether court-appointed or privately retained.
If you have been represented by a criminal defense lawyer in the past, that is usually the lawyer to call — assuming you were satisfied with his or her services.
The most critical piece of information in making a decision about self-representation is what the likely punishment will be if convicted. It is almost always wise to be represented by an attorney when jail time is possible. And remember, convictions for even seemingly minor offenses can carry hidden “downstream ” costs, such as more severe punishment for a second conviction, increased insurance rates, loss or suspension of a professional license, and deportation of non-citizens.
According to the federal constitution, a defendant has a right to an attorney before being punished by imprisonment. Some courts have held that the right to counsel applies not only wherever imprisonment is imposed, but wherever it may be imposed. States are free to provide a right to counsel in other circumstances, too, as when the defendant could be sentenced to a fine of a certain amount. (Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975).)
Because most criminal defendants are unable to afford their own attorneys, many states have public defender’s offices. Public defenders (PDs) are fully licensed lawyers whose sole job is to represent poor defendants in criminal cases. Because they appear daily in the same courts, PDs gain a lot of experience in a short period of time. And because they work daily with the same cast of characters, they learn the personalities (and prejudices) of the judges, prosecutors, and local law enforcement officers—important information to know when assessing a case and conducting a trial.
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