Retained vs. Court-Appointed Defense Attorney

No one budgets for the expense of a retained criminal defense attorney. In virtually every case, a criminal charge is a total surprise. Is it worth it to come up with the money necessary to hire a top criminal defense lawyer?

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney Team

A conviction can be life-changing. What type of lawyer can provide outstanding defense and protection?

People facing felony and misdemeanors have to decide whether to hire a retained criminal defense attorney or settle with a court-appointed attorney. Hiring a retained lawyer is expensive, and, in many cases, proceeding with an appointed lawyer (at public expense) seems like an attractive alternative.

Before a person decides that an appointed attorney would be adequate to protect their liberty, reputation, criminal history, employability, family, etc., they should consider the findings of The Indigent Defense Advisory Commission. Governor Rick Snyder empowered the Commission to complete the most comprehensive analysis of the defense of indigent persons in Michigan (AKA representation by Court Appointed Attorneys). The report is dated June 22, 2012. It is possible to find a fair, affordable, retained criminal defense lawyer to protect and defend you on felony and misdemeanor charges.

It is not a surprise that the Commission has found that indigent defendants represented by court-appointed Michigan criminal defense lawyers generally receive inadequate and constitutionally deficient defense. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and some court-appointed lawyers practice at a very high standard and demonstrate tremendous dedication and loyalty to their clients. On the other hand, a great many do not.

  • None of the trial-level indigent defense systems in Michigan counties analyzed by the Commission met minimum standards.
  • Many indigent defense systems and court-appointed Michigan criminal defense attorneys were not independent of the judiciary, had an excessive caseload, inadequate training and education, and inadequate experience handling complex cases.
  • Michigan ranks 44th out of 50 states in terms of insufficient funding for court-appointed lawyers.
  • Michigan’s current system of providing legal representation for indigent criminal defendants lacks procedural safeguards to ensure adequate public criminal defense services.

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 the 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 of this breakdown in the adversarial system is the wrongful conviction of innocent people.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does retained counsel mean?

“Retained counsel” means a privately hired lawyer and paid for directly by the defendant or someone on the defendant’s behalf. Some lawyers handle both retained and appointed cases. Suppose a lawyer maintains a practice that is exclusively retained. In that case, it is likely they have extensive experience, are highly respected among prior clients and other lawyers, and they’ve built strong connections in their community.

What is another name for a court-appointed lawyer?

Another name for a court-appointed lawyer is a public defender.

What does it mean when an attorney is appointed to you?

If an attorney is “appointed to you,” the court has assigned a lawyer to your case, and they will handle your representation through the conclusion of your case. In some courts, a different lawyer is appointed each time your case is scheduled for a hearing. A system that appoints multiple lawyers to one person’s case is flawed and assures that the defendant will not receive adequate representation, guidance, and communication. If you hire a retained, respected criminal defense attorney, you ensure that you have one lawyer or one law firm representing you from start to finish.

What is the difference between a prosecutor and a defender?

A prosecutor represents the government and is responsible for charging and prosecuting the defendant. A defender or defense lawyer is responsible for protecting their client and defending them against the prosecution. The defense lawyer’s job is to zealously advocate for the dismissal or reduction in charges and a favorable sentence if there is a conviction.

What is an advantage of a public defender?

The only advantage to a public defender is that someone without the funds necessary to retain counsel can get a basic level of legal representation with a deferred cost. Most courts order the defendant to reimburse the court for the cost of their court-appointed lawyer at the conclusion of the case.

What is the benefit of having a lawyer on retainer?

It is beneficial to have a lawyer on retainer if you are accused of a crime and there is an ongoing criminal investigation. By having a retained lawyer hired on a pre-charge basis, your lawyer can arrange for you to surrender without an arrest, protect you from police interrogation, advise you on what measures you can take to protect yourself, recommend strategies for mitigation, and more.

What does it mean to have a lawyer retained?

You retain a lawyer by paying an agreed-upon retainer or engagement fee. If you’ve retained a lawyer, that person is responsible for your representation unless they are released for your representation by a court order.

What should I look for when retaining a lawyer?

You will want to know (1) if the firm specializes in criminal defense, (2) how many years of experience the retained criminal defense attorney has, (3) if they have sufficient resources to handle your case, (4) if they have a policy of communicating important information about your case, and (5) you want to be comfortable and confident with their commitment to protect and defend you.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Hiring an Experienced Retained Criminal Defense Attorney

The bottom line is that if you can afford an experienced, privately retained Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney, who is not handicapped by an over-burdensome caseload, it should be evident that this would be in your best interests to retain one. This is in no way to be construed as a disparagement of the dedication or abilities of public defenders.

A privately retained, affordable, and experienced defense attorney will have more time and in many cases, more resources to spend on your case, and this can be crucial in the outcome for you, the client. If you call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. for a confidential case evaluation, we will take the time to speak with you, answer your questions, and address each of your concerns. Together, we will find a way to develop a winning strategy.

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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