You’re sitting in your office, working on some files, sipping coffee. So far it’s a good day. But soon you’re slapped with a lawsuit on your desk. You have been accused of some criminal activity! The next step is to hire a lawyer and go through the case, and hope to get the charges dropped.
But that isn’t the case for you, because unlike other people, you can’t afford to hire a private lawyer. A lawyer is necessary to fight your case, and you need that level of advocacy to win it, but you don’t have the financial resources to actually hire one.
That is when the Constitution gives you the right to get a free, court-appointed lawyer.
How to get a Court-appointed Lawyer?
A court-appointed attorney is someone who is given to fight your case by the State. They are just as skillful and competent as other private lawyers so you don’t have to worry about it. These lawyers are given to criminal defendants to help them prepare for trials, brief them about strategies and inform them about court proceedings.
It is important to note that even though you’re getting the service for free, it doesn’t mean court-appointed lawyers are any less competent. They are often more skillful and experienced than private lawyers, you just have to be transparent about your case and make sure the lawyer has everything they need to win your case.
Eligibility Criteria to get a Court-Appointed Lawyer
To qualify for a court-appointed lawyer, you must make the request first. They need to specify who they want to fight their case, and if the request is made in a timely manner, the decision is made. However, if the defendant fails to put up a request for their choice of attorney, they’re granted one automatically from the court. If you make the request as early as possible, the process can be done pretty quickly, or if you’re unlucky, some courts can really take days to process a simple request.
Secondly, you need to prove that you can’t afford the lawyer, for this you will have to bring forward your legal and financial documents. There is often a factor of partial indigency, this is when you’re not qualified for a court-appointed lawyer and you can’t afford one either, you’re still going to get representation. Then after the case is done and the verdict is out, you will have to pay some part of the fees that you can afford. Partial indigency is basically the midway of you not being poor enough to qualify for a court-appointed lawyer and not being rich enough to afford one yourself.
Can you be denied a Court Appointed Attorney?
It is not likely that a defendant is denied a court appointed attorney, except that your financial situation allows you to hire a private lawyer. Another possible scenario where your request could be denied is where the offense you’re accused of is not likely to result in jail time. These are the two situations where a person may be denied a court-appointed attorney.
Can you get a Lawyer the day before Court?
It is highly unlikely for your request to be given a court-appointed attorney at such short notice, but you could try. It is highly unlikely, BUT it’s not impossible.
If you’re lucky, you could get the request accepted. If your trial is due, this may not result in the continuance of your trial date, but if it is entitled by law, you could have legal counsel present at the time of the trial.
How much does a Court-Appointed Lawyer cost?
Usually a court-appointed lawyer is free of cost for people who can’t afford them, however, there are repayment methods for convicted defendants. In Texas, the fee is usually $600 maximum for most cases. For many cases and their nature, the fee structure is actually low, starting from $120 to $360.
Problems with Court-Appointed Attorneys
As much as it seems great that criminal defendants are given lawyers by court if they can’t afford one, it is also important to note some of the problems that come with having a court-appointed lawyer.
Too much burden: Usually public defendants are handling 200 cases a month, which means that you’re not their only client. A research showed that public defendants had almost 2000 cases annually, so this means they may not give their 100% to your case.
No say in the matter: When the court appoints you an attorney, you will have to make do with them only and you’ll have little say in the matter. Unless you provide a well enough reason why you want to change an attorney, chances are you’re stuck with them even if you don’t feel too relaxed or comfortable around them.
Eligibility: Chances are you won’t qualify unless you’re charged with a serious crime and the felony can lead to serious jail time, or if you can’t afford to hire a private lawyer. So, based on this eligibility criteria, not everyone can qualify for a court appointed lawyer.
Lack of resources: Public defender offices are often understaffed and have inadequate resources to fight cases. This includes money as well as having expensive mentors on board, and public defenders have neither. Therefore, the case can either be put in a slump because of lack of resources or put on hold for a very long period of time.
Often when people are charged with a criminal lawsuit in a case they may or may not have any involvement in, such cases require legal counsel. And according to the Constitutions 5th and 6th amendments, every citizen has the right to legal counsel.
For criminal defendants, the state allows courts to appoint lawyers if they can’t afford one. These are often free, but if the defendant is convicted, there may be some repayment fees (dependent on each state separately). The public defender appointed to the criminal defendant’s case must fight it with all their legal power to reach a satisfactory verdict for their client. Getting a court appointed lawyer is easy, you simply have to file in or request for one with the court and your request will be processed shortly.