Court-Appointed Counsel vs. Privately Retained Defense Counsel

Facing charges for a crime is one of the most terrifying situations, regardless of whether or not the charge is a misdemeanor or felony.

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Do you know that a defendant must pay for appointed counsel at the end of the case?

The accused has a few choices if charged with a criminal offense. They can enlist a seasoned attorney’s services or request a court-appointed attorney to represent them, free of an up-front cost. An appointed lawyer is not free; the court requires reimbursement for the lawyer’s fee after the case.

At LEWIS & DICKSTEIN P.L.L.C., we have worked with dozens of clients seeking our help after being dissatisfied with a public defender’s inattentive and sub-par representation. Unfortunately, the adage “you get what you pay for” is true in the case of legal representation.

Does it matter who represents me? Is a court-appointed attorney the same as a retained lawyer?

Choosing a seasoned, reputable attorney to protect you is crucial, whether you face misdemeanor or felony charges for the first time or the third! We have heard from clients that their public defender fails to communicate, leaving phone calls and emails unanswered and leaving the client unaware of their own choices and personal rights. Other common complaints include that the lawyer does not fight to win, is disrespectful, is not knowledgeable, seems uninterested, refuses to have meetings and more. This is not to say that all court-appointed lawyers fit this description; many are very good but are limited by heavy dockets and lack of financial incentive.

Because a public defender is court-appointed and chosen by the court or judge, clients forfeit the ability to select a seasoned attorney when they request a court-appointed attorney. In fact, some public defenders are over-extended and will try to get clients to plead guilty to avoid going to trial, which requires more planning and investment. The worst-case scenario occurs with judges who punish court-appointed lawyers for fighting cases by removing them from “the list” or providing less frequent work.

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What if I can’t afford a lawyer? Should I request a court-appointed attorney?

It is worth researching attorneys in your area before assuming you cannot afford a lawyer and requesting a court-appointed attorney. While you may hesitate to set up a payment plan, consider what is at risk if you do indeed lose your case. Your reputation, finances, employment, family, and freedom are on the line. For this reason, we do not recommend cutting corners. With years of experience, we can help devise a defense strategy to minimize the potential damage to your life.

When deciding whether a lawyer is affordable, you have to not only consider the amount of the fees but also ask the question, “What is the cost of not hiring a good attorney?” If the case’s outcome does not go as well as it could and jail is ordered, or a conviction is entered when that result could have been avoided? What will be the defendant’s cost in terms of lost employment, time away from family, deportation, damage to reputation, inability to go to college, or getting a professional license? The odds are good that the “cost” of an unnecessary jail sentence or conviction is far greater than the difference in cost to hire a highly respected lawyer.

Can I get a court-appointed lawyer if I’m accused of a crime but not yet charged?

Unfortunately, someone accused of a crime, but not yet charged, is not entitled to court-appointed counsel under Michigan for federal law. The lack of a right to counsel on a precharge basis puts those suspected of criminal activity at a severe disadvantage. Anyone facing allegations of criminal activity has rights; however, without an attorney, no one will be there to help protect them. For example, everyone has a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and a Fourth Amendment right to be free from illegal searches and seizures. Even knowledgeable people who are aware of their rights get tricked into incriminating themselves by manipulative, tricky police officers who are trained to obtain evidence. Make no mistake, police officers are not running around seeking “justice.” They are building cases and seeking evidence to obtain convictions. Because the suspect of a crime is not entitled to a public defender, it is vital they utilize every resource to hire a lawyer if possible.

What should I look for in hiring a criminal defense attorney?

Individuals who have no history with the legal process find themselves unsure of what to value in an attorney. Before hiring a bargain lawyer or requesting a court-appointed attorney, consider whether a lawyer specializes in cases, has a strong reputation, if their prior clientele vouch for the lawyer, and how the lawyer is rated with the various lawyer rating services. Be sure to ask whether your case will be handled by a lawyer familiar with your case or if you will be shipped off to an uninformed associate.

Lewis & Dickstein, Southfield, Michigan

Is a court-appointed attorney free?

A court-appointed lawyer is not free; there is not an up-front fee. The court will force the defendant to reimburse the court when they request a court-appointed attorney. The judge will order the defendant to reimburse the court as a condition of the sentence. Failure to make a payment can be a violation of probation. The court-appointed attorney fee will be a fraction of the cost of a retained lawyer; however, the quality of the representation may also be a fraction of what it would be with a seasoned, experienced, and zealous private attorney.

How do you qualify for a public defender in Michigan?

To qualify for a Court Appointed Attorney, a person must be “indigent.” Indigency is determined by a judge or magistrate, typically at the arraignment hearing. While there is no exact definition of who is “indigent,” some definitions include a person 25% above the poverty line or less. At the arraignment, the judge informs the defendant of the charges and determines bail. A defendant appearing for an arraignment without an attorney is severely disadvantaged. A retained lawyer will prepare for an arraignment by getting a thorough history from their client, obtaining support documents (such as proof of employment), arranging for character witnesses, directing the client to educational or therapeutic programs, and more. A retained lawyer gives a defendant their best chance of remaining free on bond while their case is litigated.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. is widely known and respected for having an unparalleled track record of successfully and zealously representing our clients. We use a unique team approach, with several seasoned criminal defense lawyers collaborating on every file to achieve the best possible outcome. Our attorneys understand that money doesn’t grow on trees, and anything you spend on legal fees is less you have to use for you and your family. When you trust LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. with your defense, we will do whatever it takes to ensure you get the best possible value for your hard-earned money. Our team will do everything reasonably possible to protect and defend our clients. We will find a way to help you!

If you are considering requesting a court-appointed attorney, call us for a free consultation to discuss your situation. We will take the time to talk with you, answer your questions, address your concerns, and help you make the best choice for you and your future.

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.

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

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