If you are indigent, an attorney who is appointed by the court will defend you in a criminal case that is punishable by a jail or prison term. The right to an attorney pursuant to the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is one of the foundations of the American criminal justice system. Do you remember your Miranda warnings from when you were arrested? You were told that you have the right to an attorney, and if you can’t afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. In just about every case, that will involve a public defender who will undertake your representation.
The Request for a Public Defender
If you can’t afford a criminal defense attorney who is in private practice, you can ask the court for a public defender to represent you. If that request is granted, an assistant public defender will be assigned to your case. That attorney is paid by the government specifically for purposes of representing indigent people like you.
When to Make the Request
After your arrest, an arraignment date will be set. In an arraignment, the presiding judge will advise you of what you’re charged with and what it’s punishable by. The arraignment is when you’ll make your request for a public defender to represent you. You’ll be required to complete a financial affidavit, and a determination will be made as to your eligibility for a public defender.
I Want a Real Lawyer
Public defenders are real lawyers. They’re required to pass the same bar examination as other lawyers, and many of them are highly experienced and respected by both prosecutors and judges. Just like any other job, they work their way up the ladder, but public defenders in felony courtrooms have extensive courtroom time and experience.
If your case involves a unique constitutional issue, private organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights or the Institute for Justice might undertake your representation. Note that these organizations are highly selective on the cases that they take. You’ll likely to be referred back to your local public defender’s office. You might also want to look into a legal aid clinic in your area. Just phone the bar association of the county that you’re in to inquire.
Need a Spokane Criminal Defense Lawyer?
If you’re nervous about a public defender or an attorney from a public interest group representing you, our Spokane Criminal defense lawyers offer free consultation and case evaluations. Help your own case by politely refusing to give police a statement or confession. The law doesn’t require you to help them in their case against you. Insist on your right to an attorney, and contact our offices right away. If you’re indigent, and you can’t afford an attorney, persist in your right to remain silent and request that an attorney be appointed to represent you at the time of your arraignment.