In the United States, everyone has a right to a lawyer after being charged with a crime. In some cases, a person charged with a crime may be unable to afford a criminal law attorney. Someone who cannot afford this kind of service can apply for a court-appointed lawyer. Knowing how to get a court-appointed lawyer and whether or not this is the best thing for your case is important.
How can you get a court-appointed lawyer?
Court appointed lawyers are generally obtained during the arraignment, which is the meeting that occurs shortly after your arrest. It is at the arraignment where you'll be officially charged with a crime. The judge will ask you if you have an attorney. If you do not have an attorney, the judge will ask you if you wish to have a court-appointed attorney. If you say yes, you will be asked to fill out paperwork in order to qualify.
What are the requirements for qualifying for a court-appointed attorney?
Court appointed attorneys are based on financial need. Each state has different requirements. When determining whether or not you qualify for a court-appointed attorney, your state may take into account your yearly income as well as the severity of your crime (because severe crimes cost more than minor crimes).
If your income is low enough and it's anticipated that the lawyer will be expensive enough, the court will appoint a lawyer for you. If your income is high enough that the court deems you should be able to pay some money for your lawyer, you may be required to pay some of the fees for the court-appointed attorney.
If you simply make too much money, the court will turn down your request.
Are court-appointed attorneys as good as privately hired attorneys?
Many court-appointed attorneys are qualified, skilled professionals with extensive courtroom experience. In fact, court-appointed attorneys can have the same level of skill as privately hired attorneys. The disadvantage of working with a court-appointed attorney is the amount of time that a court-appointed attorney may have to allocate to each client's individual case.
Court-appointed attorneys can have large case loads--too large to spend much time on any one single client. Private attorneys can control their own case loads and only take on as many clients as they can handle at one time. In many cases, a client who hopes to get his or her attorney's undivided attention is better off hiring a private attorney like Larson, Latham, Huettl Attorneys.