If you've been charged with a crime, you're entering the world of the criminal justice system. In this world, an experienced attorney is critical to help manage your case and obtain the best possible outcome. Many defendants will be able to get a public defender to represent them at no cost, but others may not qualify financially or prefer to hire a private attorney. In this section we'll explain who can get free legal representation, and who must (or should) hire their own criminal defense attorney. You'll also find information on finding an attorney, what you should expect from your attorney, and how to manage your lawyer.
What to Look for in a Private Criminal Defense Attorney
The attorney you're looking for will probably not be the same person who handled your will, or helped you buy a house, or whom you aunt used when she was involved in a car accident.
Paying a Private Criminal Defense Attorney
One of the first questions you're likely to ask an attorney whom you're considering hiring is, "What will this cost?" Here's the low-down on how criminal defense attorneys charge for their services, which vary according to such factors as:
The Public Defender in a Criminal Case
Most criminal defendants are legally indigent and can’t afford to pay for an attorney. On the other hand, the state can’t legally prosecute indigents unless it provides them with an attorney. To satisfy this requirement, many states have set up public defender offices.
Is the public defender a real lawyer?
I've been assigned a P.D. Is she a real lawyer?
Your Defense Lawyer’s Duty to Keep Things Confidential
Your lawyer must keep your confidences, with rare exceptions.
Plead or Go to Trial: Who Decides? How to Decide?
One of the biggest decisions in a criminal case is whether to plead guilty or go to trial. Learn how this decision is made and who makes it?
Your Right to Represent Yourself in a Criminal Case
You must be legally "competent" before a judge will allow you to represent yourself in a criminal trial.
Does Self-Representation in a Criminal Case Ever Make Sense?
The key to deciding if you need a lawyer is to look at the punishment you'll face if convicted. The harsher the potential punishment, the more important it is that you are represented by counsel.