If you have been charged with a crime, during your first court appearance you will be asked to choose between three options: whether you want to represent yourself, request a court appointed attorney, or hire your own attorney. In this Blog we will discuss those three options, what they mean, and what things you should consider when you are making that decision.
People are legally entitled to represent themselves in a criminal matter but in our opinion, it is usually not a good idea. Even a criminal defense lawyer typically hires someone if they are charged with a crime. Criminal law can be very complicated and it takes training and experience to understand your options, the consequences of what your facing, and a wide variety of other factors that go into a criminal case. The judge cannot help you or give you legal advice when you represent yourself. You will also not receive any legal advice from the prosecutor.
Asking for a Court-Appointed Lawyer
In the United States you are entitled to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be provided for you. The process for getting a court appointed-attorney is pretty simple, you fill out financial affidavit and swear under oath that the information is true. If you qualify as indigent, you will get a court-appointed attorney. This attorney will either be a public defender or a private attorney who takes appointed cases. This person will be paid by the state or federal government but will work to fight for your rights and will defend you to the best of their ability.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer
The third and final option is hiring your own lawyer, which can get complicated for someone if they have not done it before. We often get all kinds of questions when potential clients are looking to hire us, but there does not seem to be a consistent framework from which people know how to make the best hiring decision.
- Common questions that are asked are: How many cases like this have you tried? What’s your win percentage? How long have you been doing this? Are you a former prosecutor? What can you guarantee me? Can you get my charges dismissed? Do you know the judge in this case?
People ask these questions because they really don’t know how else to evaluate this big decision. What we like to tell people is that when you are hiring a criminal defense lawyer, the most important consideration is that you should be comfortable with that person. Comfortable that they will communicate with you, comfortable that they will fight for you, and comfortable that they are competent.
In today’s environment it is not hard to read reviews online to see if a lawyer has a good reputation, it’s also not hard to look up an attorney’s information including years of experience and past cases. Because of this, this is most important consideration when hiring a criminal defense lawyer is the feel you get for that attorney.
If you have been charged with a crime in North or South Carolina, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney. Contact us to see if we can help you.