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How Do I Get a Free Lawyer?

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Thanks to thousands of police drama episodes and murder mysteries, most people are familiar with the Miranda rights which have to be read to anyone that gets arrested. This includes the line, “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

This does not mean that everyone arrested gets a free lawyer or public defender. You’re not the one who decides if you can afford a lawyer or not. The presiding judge at your hearing does. When at the hearing, the judge will ask you all about your finances, including your income, your assets and your debts. Do not lie in order to get a public defender. If you are caught lying, the penalties can be severe. If the judge does agree that you cannot afford an attorney, you will be classified as having hardship or indigence. You then become an indigent defendant.

Models for Indigent Defense

According to Harvard Law School, U.S. states use one or a combination of three models to handle indigent defendants:

  • Assigned Counsel System: This is when you get a lawyer that’s in a private practice being paid by the state or locality
  • Contract-Service System: This is where the government has a contract with a law firm in order to use their attorneys for indigents
  • Public Defender System: This is when you get a lawyer that specializes in indigents. They are paid by federal, state or local governments.

Are They Any Good?

As the old saying goes, you pay for what you get. Free lawyers often face more challenges than do private attorneys.

  • Payment: Public defenders are not paid as well as private attorneys. They do get a base salary, pension and some other benefits.
  • Pressure: Public defenders get the same salary whether they take care of 500 clients a year or 50. As a consequence, they are under pressure to wrap up cases quickly. Private defenders can devote more time to their clients.
  • Education: Not all newly hired public defenders have litigation or court experience. Some jurisdictions in the U.S. are known for hiring public defenders who have recently completed law school. In contrast, private attorneys specialize in certain areas of law in order to better know how to help their clients.

Overall, public defenders spend less time on each case than do private attorneys. You can pick a private attorney while options are limited with public defenders.

To get more information about your right to free legal counsel, talk to Brett Podolsky today at 713-227-0087.

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