The Sixth Amendment guarantees legal counsel for all defendants in criminal cases.
If someone can’t afford a lawyer, the court appoints one, even for misdemeanors with potential incarceration.
This attorney, often a public defender or panel attorney, is responsible for zealous representation and defense.
What Is A Court-Appointed Attorney?
When arrested and unable to afford a private attorney, the court provides a public defender.
Court-appointed attorneys represent those who can’t hire counsel. However, relying on a court-appointed attorney has its drawbacks.
Are Court-Appointed Attorneys Free?
It varies. Some places recover public counsel costs through upfront fees, post-conviction reimbursement, or requiring partially indigent defendants to contribute.
These fees are contentious but remain in use in many states.
Are Court-Appointed Lawyers Good?
Certainly. Court-appointed lawyers and public defenders excel in their roles.
Don’t assume they are less capable than paid private attorneys; they can perform just as well, or even better, for various reasons.
Extensive Experience in Criminal Defense
Many public defenders involved in criminal defense aim for the best results.
They often have in-house investigators and researchers, which private attorneys may lack.
Public defender attorneys are in the criminal defense community are highly respected, highly skilled, and experienced.
Private attorneys on an approved criminal defense panel also possess significant expertise. They must apply and be approved by the local court judges.
These attorneys typically run private practices and serve appointed clients for minimal or no fees.
Ability to Ask for Investigative Funds
Appointed counsel can request court funds for more than just their fees, including expert witnesses like fingerprint examiners or accountants, if needed for your defense.
Frequently Appear in Court and Negotiate with Prosecutors
Public defenders and appointed private attorneys are familiar with local judges and prosecutors.
They’ve dealt with your judge and prosecutor numerous times, providing valuable insights and effective strategies.
What are the Responsibilities of Court-Appointed Attorneys?
Public defenders and panel attorneys share the same responsibilities and ethics as private criminal defense lawyers. These duties include: z
- zealously representing their clients
- investigating the case
- offering legal advice
- maintaining confidentiality
- keeping clients informed.
All criminal defense attorneys must provide effective representation.
However, public defenders and court-appointed attorneys often face heavy caseloads due to their constitutional duty to provide legal counsel.
Do I Have to Keep My Court-Appointed Lawyer?
If you obtain funds to hire your preferred attorney during your case, you can switch lawyers.
However, changing close to trial carries risks, as the court may not grant delays.
If dissatisfied with appointed counsel but can’t afford a private attorney, requesting a different lawyer should be a last resort.
In cases of a conflict of interest, your appointed attorney must inform the judge, potentially leading to additional preparation time for new counsel.