When Are You Entitled To A Criminal Defense Attorney?
Everyone has heard cops reading people their rights on TV and telling them that they have the right to an attorney. But do you always have a right to an attorney, and are there limits on that right? Here's what you need to know.
You Can't Be Forced to Go Without a Lawyer
The right to an attorney means that you can't be forced to represent yourself in a criminal trial. You always have the right to hire an attorney.
In fact, judges are very cautious when you ask to represent yourself. They ask you multiple questions to ensure that you understand what you're getting into and how you might make costly mistakes if you don't have a lawyer. They'll also usually appoint a backup lawyer to sit silently and be ready to take over if you get in over your head.
A Lawyer Will Be Appointed Only If You Can't Afford One
You only have the right to have a public defender appointed for you if you can't afford a lawyer. Each local jurisdiction usually has income limits to receive a public defender.
If you're above the income limit, it doesn't matter if a private lawyer doesn't actually fit into your budget. You won't be given a lawyer paid for by the state.
If you don't meet the criteria for an appointed lawyer, you'll need to find a lawyer who charges a low rate, offers payment plans, or takes credit cards.
You Have the Right to Choose Your Lawyer Only If You're Paying
You have the right to hire any lawyer who is legally able to practice law where you were charged with a crime. The state can't set any restrictions other than whether the lawyer is licensed to practice law.
You're also free to change your hired lawyer at any time. However, if you have an appointed public defender, you don't have the right to choose.
You're required to use whichever lawyer the public defender's office assigns you. If you want a new lawyer, you would have to pay for your own.
Your Right to Fire Your Lawyer Might Be Limited
In some situations, you may not be able to fire even a privately hired attorney. This is usually when a change in lawyers would be very disruptive to the process, such as in the middle of a long trial.
To learn more about your rights or to begin your defense, talk to a local criminal defense attorney like one from Rutter and Sleeth Law Offices.