Can I get a new criminal defense attorney?

If you have a retained or court-appointed lawyer and you are not confident in your legal representation, it may be time for you to make a change. The process is more complicated for an appointed lawyer.

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The Process is Different for Appointed and Retained Lawyers

The process of getting a new criminal attorney depends on whether your lawyer is appointed by the court or privately retained. If you have a retained attorney (the one you paid for), you may change attorneys at any time and for any reason. The process is as simple as finding an experienced criminal defense attorney and hiring that person. He or she will know how to handle the rather simple mechanics of taking over your representation and releasing your prior lawyer.

If you have a court-appointed attorney, you must appear in court, usually at one of your regularly scheduled court dates, and explain to the judge you are requesting a new court-appointed attorney. You can probably expect an irritated and impatient response from the judge at first. The judge will grill you about your request, and will most likely be skeptical of your motives. However, if you have a serious and legitimate issue, the judge will have no choice but to consider it. It would be a good idea to write down a list of your problems with your attorney so that you don’t forget what to tell the judge. Bring any documents or communications that may back up your explanation.

Will the judge be angry if I change attorneys?

In a word, no. Having a change in attorneys is fairly routine, and judges typically take little notice. If you’ve retained a new lawyer, the judge knows that you have a constitutional right to a lawyer of your choice. Because you have a constitutional right to counsel, the courts are usually very accommodating when you hire a new attorney. In fact, it is common for the court to permit an adjournment to permit the new attorney to “come up to speed” on your case if that is necessary. If the new attorney is well known and experienced, the court is usually happy to have that person take over the case. Judges and prosecutors know that the entire court process runs more smoothly with a lawyer who is familiar with the court and experienced in criminal defense.

If your attorney was court-appointed, it is a little more problematic to switch to a new court-appointed lawyer. You may have a right to an appointed attorney, but not a lawyer of your choice. If you want to change court-appointed attorneys, you must have a very substantial, legitimate gripe with the lawyer in order to get a new one. If you are replacing a court-appointed lawyer with a privately retained attorney, the court will be happy to save the government the money that would have been spent on the appointed lawyer, and the judge will likely be very cooperative.

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What is the process of getting a new attorney?

When you hire the new attorney, he or she will take care of advising the court and entering the appropriate order changing attorneys on your case. The process is usually quick and easy for a seasoned lawyer. An attorney who has a track record of success in court and an excellent reputation will likely have experience in replacing other attorneys who are less effective or experienced. The process is as simple as finding a lawyer you trust to fight for you and retaining that person to take over your representation.

If you are requesting new, court-appointed counsel, the process will depend on the individual court and judge. Different courts have different processes for appointing lawyers. You will have to ask the judge to appoint a new lawyer and have a good reason to make the request. If the appointed lawyer agrees that it would be best for you to have a new attorney, the process is less complicated.

Will I be able to get a refund of some of the money I paid for my previous lawyer?

The answer to this question depends on the terms of the fee agreement or contract you signed with the lawyer. The different contractual terms and conditions are limitless, so there is no one right answer to this question. If there is no fee agreement or contract, the odds of getting a refund are much better. A professional, experienced, and respectable lawyer will always use a formal, written contract called a Fee Agreement.

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Can my new criminal lawyer get my file from the previous lawyer?

Almost everything in your file at the prior lawyer’s office is your property, and your new lawyer should not have any problem getting it. Many lawyers are familiar with this process and making a copy of a file is not complicated. Most lawyers do charge a nominal fee to the client to cover the cost of reproducing the file.

How do I know if I’m making the right decision in replacing my attorney?

It may be difficult to know if switching lawyers is the right decision. These are a few objective things to consider:

  • Does the lawyer communicate with you about what is going on in your case to your satisfaction?
  • Does your lawyer satisfactorily respond to your phone calls and emails?
  • Does your lawyer adequately explain why certain actions are being taken in your case so that you understand?
  • Is your lawyer rude or discourteous to you?
  • Does your lawyer frequently ask for money for things you believe are already covered by the retainer amount? If so, do you get an acceptable explanation?
  • Does your lawyer ask for legal fees in excess of the amount you’ve agreed to in a contract?
  • Does it appear your lawyer is respected by the judge and does your lawyer treat the judge with respect?
  • Is your lawyer courteous and professional with the opposing lawyer?
  • Is your lawyer doing the things he or she told you they would be doing?

In the final analysis, in addition to the items above, you will probably have a gut feeling if the lawyer is not right for you. If you have a retained attorney, you can act any time you want, within reason. Having the right criminal defense lawyer can be the difference between freedom and prison, guilt or innocence, and financial liberation or devastation. A conviction can be life-altering, and having the right counsel by your side can be invaluable.

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Respected and Effective Criminal Defense Lawyers

The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has routinely substituted in on cases where clients were dissatisfied with their former attorneys. We believe these clients were very happy with their decision to do so. The dedicated, experienced and zealous defense attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have successfully represented thousands of clients on felony and misdemeanor charges in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw, and Livingston Counties and throughout Michigan. We have a well-earned reputation for providing the highest quality defense and aggressive representation while showing empathy and care for each client. C