In order to know when you can approach a criminal defense attorney, learn some critical points to figure out what will work best for you.

Are you facing any criminal charge?

The defendants, according to the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, have the right to a criminal defense attorney if the criminal charges against the alleged culprits could lead to their imprisonment. In such situations, defendants have two options to choose from – Private Attorney and Court-Appointed Counsel.

The defendants have a right to choice when hiring a private attorney as they pay out of their pockets for the professional’s service. But if they cannot afford to hire an attorney of their choice, the court will appoint one. The appointed attorney, referred to as a public defender, is paid by the government.

Who has a right to public defender?

There is no uniform rule to identify who can or cannot afford a private attorney. The determination varies from one jurisdiction to another. Courts take into account several factors to assess a defendant’s ability to pay for a private attorney. The defendant’s employment status, assets and income as well as the cost of counsel – everything is assessed to figure out if the defendant is able to pay for a counsel’s service. Employment status is not the sole parameter to assess a defendant’s ability to pay.

Courts will try to evaluate if paying for a private attorney would put a substantial financial burden upon the person. The court will also look into his/her financial ‘duties’ such as rent, insurance, liabilities and other support obligations. Usually, the defendant’s non-liquid asset or the assets of the person’s relatives doesn’t play a role when it comes to determining his/her affordability to hire a private criminal defense lawyer.

Does an employed person have the right to a public defense attorney?

Whether a defendant, who has a job, is entitled to a court-appointed lawyer is decided by the court after considering seriousness of the charges, the possibility of long proceedings and the high expenses of hiring a private attorney in the area. The court may consider the defendant’s financial obligations of taking care of his/her family.

However, if the defendant faces charges for shoplifting, misdemeanour etc, the court might decide against the person’s plea for a court-appointed counsel because the proceeding would be shorter and won’t involve much complexity. In addition, it will also not slap the defendant with a high cost for hiring an attorney.

When does a defendant have a right to a lawyer?

Neither the term of imprisonment nor whether the punishment is awarded can interfere with a defendant’s constitution-supported right to a criminal defense attorney. The likelihood of imprisonment is enough ground for a defendant to hire a private attorney or request for a court-appointed public prosecutor.

A counsel’s appointment is usually not warranted in most traffic violation cases. This is because, the alleged culprits, if proved guilty, face only financial penalty and suspension of license and not imprisonment. Keep in mind, only the defendants in criminal cases have the right to a court-appointed attorney; civil defendants cannot enjoy the right.

Ask for an Attorney

If you are facing any kind of criminal charges, consult an attorney from King Law, a Rochester personal injury and criminal defense law firm, as soon as possible. Having an attorney to guide you throughout the length of the case will ensure the best favourable outcome in your situation.

Avi Aranb