How to Get a Court Appointed Attorney

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What's a Court Appointed Attorney?

Court appointed attorneys are attorneys who are appointed by the state to assist persons during criminal law proceedings. A court appointed attorney performs various tasks, such as arguing the defense case before court, researching laws, and providing legal advice to the defendant. Court appointed attorneys or public defense attorneys are usually only received for cases where the defendant is involved in a jailable offense.

I Need Help Understanding How to Get a Court Appointed Attorney. Where Do I Start?

First of all, a court appointed attorney generally needs to be requested. This usually occurs at the arraignment when the charges are brought against the defendant. If the defendant doesn’t specifically request for a court-appointed attorney, they will not be assigned one automatically. Although the person has a right to an attorney, they must usually indicate their need to the court.

Also, courts usually only provide attorneys for persons who cannot afford to hire their own attorney. This usually requires proof in the form of financial documents that show the person’s inability to hire a lawyer. Reviewing these documents can take some time, so it may be a short while before you hear about your eligibility for a court appointed attorney.

What Is Partial Indigency?

It can sometimes happen that a person’s income is not enough to hire an attorney, but not yet low enough to make them eligible for a court-appointed attorney. In such cases, the court may declare "partial indigency." This allows the person to obtain a court-appointed attorney, although the court will usually request the person to reimburse the state for a portion of the attorney fee.

Should I Hire My Own Attorney for Criminal Matters?

In many cases, court-appointed attorneys may not always match the needs, preferences, and personal aims of a defendant. You may wish to hire your own private attorney if you have specific issues that need to be dealt with, or if you feel that you will be incompatible with a court appointed lawyer. Your attorney can provide you with representation in a way that fits your overall background and preferences.

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Last Modified: 10-15-2013 03:27 PM PDT

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