If you were recently accused of a crime, the most important thing for you to do is get an attorney. You should find and hire an attorney, like a criminal defense attorney you can trust as soon as possible. However, this is often easier said than done. A common concern among people in this situation is paying for the lawyer. After all, legal representation has a reputation for being quite expensive. Are there attorney’s available for defendants who cannot afford legal representation? This guide will answer this question.
Public defenders are essentially just attorneys who represent defendants for free. Public defenders are employed by the state and are only available for defendants in criminal cases. In civil cases, which are lawsuits between two citizens, each party is expected to hire a private attorney. However, every US citizen has the right to an attorney when accused of a crime. This is a right that cannot be taken away.
If you cannot afford a private attorney, using a public defender is an excellent idea. It will cost you nothing and you do not need to spend any effort choosing a representative. Sometimes the media portrays public defenders as less capable than private attorneys on television or in movies. This is not true, of course, so you should not feel like you are in a worse situation for using a public defender.
If you want to have a public defender represent you, you need to request one at your arraignment. Your arraignment is your first court appearance when your trial date is set. You will be asked if you need a public defender at this time and you simply need to say that you are. A public defender will be assigned to you. If you decline this offer and later change your mind, contact the courthouse and learn if you can still be assigned a public defender.
If you want to use a private attorney, but cannot afford one, consider using one of these legal aid options:
- Legal clinic – You can receive legal advice and services for free, but not necessarily representation.
- Pro bono attorney – Many attorneys offer legal representation for free to certain clients.
- Legal aid law firm – Some law firms are funded by the state or private funders to offer legal representation for no charge to the client.
Only plaintiffs in civil cases can hire attorneys with a contingency fee. If none of these options are available to you, going with a public defender is likely your best option.