What Happens When You Can't Afford to Hire an Attorney?


In general, it's best to hire a private attorney to represent you when you are charged with a DUI. If you are unable to afford one, however, the court may appoint a public defender to represent you during trial. Here's more information about this issue.

At the Arraignment

The first time you may be provided with a public defender is at your arraignment. This is a hearing where the court clarifies the charges against you, hears how you choose to plea (e.g. guilty or not guilty), and decides your bail amount if you haven't bonded out of jail already. The judge will ask whether you have an attorney. If you don't, the judge will appoint a public defender to represent you during the proceedings.

This is a temporary arrangement, however. The lawyer representing you during the arraignment typically won't be the same person who handles your case afterwards. The only time you may end up with the same attorney is when you bond out of jail before your arraignment.

In this instance, the court assumes people capable of paying the bail can hire private attorneys. Therefore, if you need a public defender, you must submit an application to the court stating you are indigent and request one. The court will then assign an attorney to you who will work with you during your entire case.

Before the Trial

The second time the court will assign an attorney to you is when you request one, as noted previously. Whether your request is approved depends on a couple of factors: income and case type.

All states have an income threshold you must meet to qualify for assistance. In New York, for instance, a person with a family size of 4 people cannot have income over $21,600 per year or $1,800 per month. The person also cannot have liquid assets valued over $3,000 per person. If at any time during your defense your income and assets exceeds these levels, you will be required to hire a private attorney.

However, income isn't the only thing the judge will look at. Your case type will also be a factor, because it can indicate how long the trial will be. Even if your income exceeds the maximum level, the court may still appoint a public defender to you if it appears the case will last a long time and possibly exhaust your financial resources.

For example, if you caused an accident while driving intoxicated and someone died, the case may take longer than a regular DUI because the prosecutor will likely charge you with felony manslaughter. If the court feels you don't have the money available to finance a sustained defense or you may suffer a financial setback (e.g. lose your job) during the course of the trial, you may be awarded a public defender as a result.

As mentioned earlier, it's best to hire a private attorney for your criminal trial because public defenders are often burdened with cases and may not be able to focus on yours enough to properly represent you. Before asking for a public defender, talk to a criminal defense attorney to see if he or she can work with your financial situation (e.g. offer a payment plan) so you can get someone dedicated to your cause.


27 February 2017

take a lawyer to criminal court

Until marijuana is legalized in every state, there will be courtrooms filled with those who are deemed criminals for possessing and using it. If you have been charged with the possession and use of marijuana, you need an attorney. Having gone through this with my son, I know that the courts are not pleased with these charges and things don't always turn out well. This blog will show you several examples of what can happen if you go to court for criminal charges without having an attorney working on your side to protect your rights and reduce the consequences as much as possible.