Retained vs. Appointed – Is there a difference?
Retained criminal defense attorney vs. court-appointed attorney. How is a court-appointed attorney provided in criminal cases, and will there be any cost?
There is a difference between retained and appointed representation.
The court provides a court-appointed lawyer only for those who are financially unable to retain private counsel. If you own a home, have a decent full-time job, or have other assets, the court might tell you to retain a private criminal attorney. To apply for an appointed attorney, you must disclose your financial information (income, debt, and assets) under penalty of perjury. Additionally, even if the court finds you initially financially eligible for an appointed lawyer, you will still be ordered to repay the court for the cost of the appointed attorney. If you’re deciding whether to hire a private lawyer, you are likely wondering if there is a significant difference between retained and appointed criminal defense attorneys. The difference between appointed counsel and one of Michigan’s top defense lawyers is significant and consequential.
Will a public defender be as good as privately retained defense counsel?
According to the State of Michigan’s State Appellate Defender Office in April 2018:
“Our criminal justice system relies on zealous defenders and independent pretrial investigations to ensure just results. Yet the reality is that public-defense delivery systems — nationally and in Michigan — are inadequate and underfunded. Court appointed trial attorneys carry excessive caseloads and lack the time and funding to investigate cases. One result from this breakdown in the adversarial system is the wrongful conviction of innocent people.”
There are some excellent appointed lawyers, but you will not be able to choose which appointed lawyer is best for you. With an appointed attorney, you will not be able to fire the attorney even if you are not happy (and your appointed lawyer may act accordingly). You may ask the court to give you a new attorney, but the court may not grant the request. Regrettably, many court-appointed must deal with staggeringly high, burdensome caseloads. By contrast, even a busy private criminal lawyer has only a fraction of the cases that each public defender must unfortunately shoulder. Both paid lawyers and court-appointed lawyers each have only 24 hours in a day. Even the most conscientious, skilled appointed attorney has difficulty finding the time and resources to defend a client adequately.
Should I go to the trouble and expense of hiring a retained lawyer if I may be eligible for the services of a court-appointed attorney?
The bottom line is that it is in your best interest if you can afford to hire a private, retained lawyer who is not overwhelmed by their caseload. If you can find a lawyer who is a partner in a criminal defense law firm, you will have a lawyer who has the time to dedicate to your case and the resources to provide an even higher level of service. Many appointed lawyers have the highest level of dedication and ability. A privately retained and experienced defense attorney will likely have more time and resources to spend on your case.
Can I still retain a criminal defense attorney if I already have an appointed attorney?
You can always switch from appointed to retained criminal defense attorneys. Courts have limited funds for appointed attorneys and prefer defendants with privately retained lawyers. Although defendants with appointed lawyers must repay the court for the legal fees, defendants frequently fail to reimburse the court. Judges also know that defendants with retained lawyers appeal less often because they are less frequently dissatisfied with their representation.
A great criminal defense attorney
You can check the qualifications of most criminal defense attorneys, assuming they have any level of recognition in the community, by visiting www.avvo.com. Type in an attorney’s name and see how they are ranked compared to other Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyers. The difference between most court-appointed lawyers and a top retained defense attorney is enormous. Call for a free consultation if you want to know what a top defense law firm can offer you and how we can help with your case. We will take the time to talk with you, answer your questions, and address your concerns. If there is a way to help you, we will find it.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.