You Have the Right to a Criminal Defense Attorney
The American Constitution grants defendants the right to have an attorney when facing criminal charges.
This is especially so if the criminal charges can result in imprisonment.
You can hire a private lawyer of your choosing, but if you cannot afford an attorney the court will appoint one.
The lawyer so appointed is called a public defender, and the government pays for the appointed counsel.
But is everyone entitled to a court-appointed attorney?
This aspect varies from one jurisdiction to another.
“The court will consider several factors”, says one of the local criminal attorneys in Maryland. “Your job status, the assets you own and your income, all these are evaluated”.
Usually courts try to assess whether paying for an attorney will cause the accused substantial hardship.
Let us consider an example.
If you are charged with bank robbery, and you are employed as a shop assistant, the court can appoint an attorney based on several factors and considerations such as the seriousness of the charges, the likelihood of the proceedings being extended and the steep cost of private representation.
Moreover, the court can display a humanitarian consideration if you have an elderly father or mother to look after.
On the other hand, if you are charged with drunk driving – a misdemeanor, the court can decide that you are not eligible for an attorney because the proceedings will be short and the legal costs less.
However, you do have the right to an attorney if the criminal charges against you are serious that can result in imprisonment.
“It really does not matter how long the imprisonment is likely to be”, says one of the top criminal lawyers in Maryland. “All that matters is the likelihood of a prison term”.
If the accused faces serious charges of misdemeanor like vandalism (a crime that is punishable by a term in jail if convicted), he or she has a right to a lawyer even if the actual sentence turns out to just a fine.
If you have been convicted of a crime and desire to be represented by a court appointed lawyer, be sure to inform the judge shortly after your arrest or during the arraignment hearing.
Public defenders have huge caseloads; hence it is but natural that they may not be able to concentrate on your case as much as you would like them to.
The positive side of public defenders is that they have experience in dealing with a huge number of cases and know the prosecuting attorneys and judges well.
This aspect can be to your advantage.
What if you are unhappy with the court-appointed lawyer?
In most cases you are stuck with the lawyer the court appoints.
Courts are generally reluctant to grant a change of lawyer. This is because the courts are apprehensive that the defendant may be trying to thwart the process or slow down the proceedings or postpone the conviction.
In extreme situations, when the defendant has strong evidence that his or her relationship with the court-appointed attorney is very bad, the court may grant a motion for change of attorney.
If you are facing any kind of criminal charge, it makes sense to consult one of the local criminal attorneys in Maryland. Having sound representation helps ensure the best possible outcome for your case.