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# 402 Do you have a right to a free lawyer?

mp3 #402 Do you have a Right to a Free Attorney? (mp3 file)

Public Defenders are assigned to your case only after you have been arrested and being charged with a crime during an arraignment. Consulting with an attorney immediately after an arrest or during an investigation can have a positive impact on the outcome of your case. Continue below to be referred to an experienced and insured Criminal Law attorney.

If you are accused of a crime, you have a right to be represented by an attorney. This is true, whether you are a juvenile or an adult. But what if you can't afford an attorney? If you are charged with a crime which may result in jail time, and if you cannot afford an attorney, the court will usually supply you with a free attorney. Generally only defendants who risk being sent to jail are provided with a free attorney. The law does not want anyone to be convicted of a crime and sent to jail without first having competent legal representation.

In order to qualify for a free attorney, you must be able to show that you are unable to employ an attorney because of lack of finances. Some courts may require that documents be filled out in order to prove your inability to pay. If you can't pay, the court must supply you with a free attorney. That is your right under the law, and it is the judge's duty to protect your rights.

In criminal cases, if you qualify for a free attorney, the judge will probably assign a lawyer known as a public defender to take your case. The public defenders office is paid for by the public funds. The only duty of the public defender is to defend those who do not have the money or means with which to employ an attorney. The public defenders are trained and skilled attorneys, and while they have to handle a great many cases, they are as prepared to represent a private citizen accused of a crime as the district attorney is prepared to prosecute that crime. Your right to a court-appointed attorney does not mean that you can select an attorney of your choice. The court is only required to appoint a competent attorney to represent you.

Sometimes there is a complication in the use of a public defender. This can happen when two or more persons are charged with committing the same crime and their defenses conflict with each other. For example, suppose you and another person are accused of a crime, and, in order for you to clear yourself, it is necessary for you to accuse the other defendant. In such a case, one attorney could not represent both of you because of the conflict. The court, therefore, will appoint a private attorney to represent the other defendant. The private attorney is then paid by public funds just as the public defender's office is.

If you have received the services of the public defender's office or a court appointed attorney, at the end of your case you may be required to pay reasonable defender's costs including attorney fees based on the amount of money spent in your defense. The repayment will, of course, depend upon your ability to pay, and will be determined by the judge.

We all have many legal rights. It is essential that we know our rights. One of the most important of these rights is the right to a fair trial. Because of the complexity of the legal system a fair trial is almost impossible without proper legal representation. Your right to a fair trial, therefore, includes the right to be represented by an attorney whether or not you can pay. So remember, if you are charged with a crime that could send you to jail and you can't afford an attorney, you have a right to a free attorney and the court will supply you with one who is well qualified to give you a competent defense.

If you can afford an attorney, on the other hand, you may employ a private attorney of your choice at your expense. There are attorneys who have qualified by state board certification as specialists in the field of criminal law. Also, you may obtain a referral to an attorney who is a member of the criminal law defense panel, from your local lawyer referral service.

Whether you can afford to employ an attorney of your choice, or you have an attorney appointed for you by the court at no obligation to you other than to the extent that you are able to pay, it is important that you have an attorney to assist and represent you at all phases of the criminal proceeding.

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