An Indigent Defendant is Entitled to a Court-Appointed Lawyer, Not a Lawyer of His Choice

In Michigan, any qualifying person charged with an offense that carries the possibility of incarceration is entitled to a court-appointed lawyer.

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Although there are advantages to having retained counsel, proceeding without at least an appointed lawyer is unwise.

If you are charged with a crime and facing the possibility of time in jail or prison, and you cannot afford to hire a retained criminal defense attorney, you are entitled to an attorney at public expense. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court must appoint one for you. If you are arrested, arraigned, or appear for the first time in court on a criminal charge, the court will ask you if you can afford your own lawyer or need one appointed for you. Although you can get a court-appointed lawyer if you are indigent, the only way to get a lawyer of your choice is to retain a criminal defense lawyer privately.

What do I say to get a court-appointed lawyer?

When you request court-appointed counsel, the court will provide you a form to complete by listing all of your assets and debts. The judge assigned to your case will review the form and determine your eligibility for court-appointed counsel. If you qualify, you are entitled to representation at court expense.

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Is a court-appointed lawyer free?

An appointed lawyer is “free,” but only at first. Court-appointed lawyers are paid one of three ways. Some appointed attorneys are paid an amount that depends on the services that are provided. In other cases, a lawyer or law firm may be hired on a contract basis, and fees are predetermined, not dependent on time or services provided. Finally, some defense lawyers are hired on a contract basis, and their compensation remains constant regardless of the number of clients or the quality of services provided. In each of these cases, the court-appointed lawyers are paid by the court, a city, or a county.

You will be ordered to reimburse the court for the cost or a portion of the cost of the appointed lawyer once your case is completed. In other words, there may not be an upfront fee for a court-appointed lawyer; however, the indigent defendant is then ordered to reimburse the government for the cost of the lawyer when the case is over. The biggest concern for individuals who utilize the services of appointed counsel is that they can be held in contempt or charged with a probation violation if the appointed lawyers are not repaid.

What is the difference between a court-appointed lawyer and a retained criminal defense attorney?

Depending on the circumstances, there may be a significant difference in the quality of legal representation between an appointed lawyer and retained counsel. A defense lawyer’s talent, experience, aggressiveness, and reputation will likely make a huge difference in resolving a case. A top lawyer may achieve a dismissal compared to a conviction following the appointment of a less effective lawyer. Similarly, an excellent attorney can be the difference between a jail or prison sentence and a sentence without incarceration.

Understanding that there are exceptions to every rule, most retained lawyers can dedicate more time to critically important research, investigation, communication, negotiation, and preparation. Unfortunately, some retained lawyers provide lackluster work. Conversely, retained defense lawyers who maintain an extraordinary reputation for being top trial lawyers provide an unequaled level of service.

Should I get a court-appointed lawyer?

If you cannot afford a good, retained lawyer, you would be foolish not to request appointed counsel. Judges are bound to run their courtrooms according to complex court rules and rules of evidence. Prosecutors are ethically required to follow specific rules. However, prosecutors and city attorneys will not hesitate to take advantage of a person without counsel or with a low-cost lawyer who either does not have extensive knowledge of the rules or simply doesn’t know the rules. In some cases, court-appointed attorneys are required to maintain minimal levels of continuing legal education and have at least some experience to draw upon in defense of their indigent clients. In federal court, the appointed lawyers, referred to as CJA counsel, are some of the most experienced lawyers in the state.

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Why consider hiring a criminal defense lawyer with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.?

Every lawyer with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has extensive experience solely focused on providing the highest caliber of criminal defense possible. Since 1998, our Defense Team has diligently worked to develop techniques and strategies that have proven successful in achieving dismissals, winning motions, sentences without incarceration, and other highly favorable results. No lawyer can ethically promise or guarantee any particular result; however, our lawyers can promise and guarantee that we will do everything reasonably possible to help our clients achieve the best achievable results. We cannot make our legal fees fit within every budget; however, we will do everything possible to make hiring us affordable.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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