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Criminal Defense Attorney

The Sixth Amendment grants you the right to legal representation if you are accused of a crime and conviction could result in imprisonment. However, not everyone can afford to hire an attorney. For those who cannot, the court has a responsibility to appoint a lawyer. Sometimes these are private attorneys, while other times they can be full-time public defenders. It is up to the court’s discretion.

However, the court only appoints attorneys to those with a genuine need. If you think you may qualify for a court-appointed attorney, you can request one, but you must be prepared to prove that your finances will not allow you to hire one on your own.

Making the Request

The moment to request a court-appointed attorney is at your arraignment. This is the first time that you appear before a judge following your arrest. After reading the charges against you, the judge will ask you if you would like the court to appoint an attorney to represent you in your case. If you answer yes, the court will have to make a determination as to your eligibility before making the appointment.

Qualifying Criteria

The judge will have to determine whether your financial situation qualifies you for a court-appointed attorney. This may involve asking you to fill out a questionnaire regarding your income and assets. However, sometimes the judge may simply ask you questions about your financial situation.

Sometimes you qualify for something called partial indigency. This means that your income is too high to qualify for a court-appointed lawyer at the government’s expense, yet you also cannot afford to hire a defense attorney. The judge may appoint an attorney to your case with a finding of partial indigency, but you will be responsible for paying a portion of the fees back to the government.

The qualifications for a court-appointed attorney vary by jurisdiction. Some take not only your financial situation into consideration but also the seriousness of your crime. More serious charges may require your attorney to put in more hours, which could affect his or her affordability. Therefore, many courts, though not all, will take this into consideration when determining whether or not to appoint a defender to your case. On the other hand, if the charge is a misdemeanor and the trial is likely to be short, the court may determine that you can afford to hire your own representation.

Weighing the Options

Public defenders are usually very experienced, but they frequently have a heavy case load and only limited resources available to them. If there is a possibility that you might be able to afford your own federal criminal defense lawyer in San Francisco, CA, it bears looking into. Contact a law office for more information.



Thanks to the Morales Law Firm for their insight into criminal law and court appointed defense attorneys.

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