When facing criminal charges, there are a lot of decisions you need to make before your day in court. One of those decisions is choosing whether to hire a private attorney, use a court-appointed attorney, or accept help Pro Bono. In this article, we are going to outline the differences between a court-appointed lawyer, a pro bono lawyer, and a lawyer you pay for out of pocket.
Court Appointed Attorney
If you’re charged with a criminal offense and don’t have money or resources to find legal representation, the court can appoint a public defender that will handle your case at no cost to you. The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution gives every citizen the right to an attorney for criminal proceedings. To qualify for a court-appointed attorney, you have to meet specific low-income criteria and prove you are unable to afford a lawyer on your own.
While court-appointed attorneys are more helpful than no representation at all, most public defenders handle many cases at a time. This means that they have limited resources to dedicate to each client. They may not have the time to dedicate substantial attention to your case depending on their existing workload.
To qualify for a court-appointed attorney, you may need to reference any current financial documents that prove to the court that you don’t have the funds to hire a private lawyer. Your financial situation can be calculated in different ways, including, your income to expense ratio, the state or county you live in, and the cost of private lawyers in your area.
Pro Bono Attorney
A Pro Bono Attorney agrees to take on your case, either the entire case or a significant portion, at no cost to you or any other third party. Compared to a court-appointed attorney who gets paid by the government or a legal aid organization, pro bono lawyers volunteer their own time with no expectation of repayment.
Sometimes attorney’s take Pro Bono cases for specific press or marketing opportunities, or if it is a case that has a significant personal meaning to them or their area of law.
While it may seem like a great idea to accept free council, it’s important to remember that the attorney is volunteering their time. It’s likely that they’ll set very definite boundaries of what they will do and when they will be available to you during the case. You may have limited access to them if they are handling other cases, and it may be more challenging to get exactly what you want out of the agreement.
If you can afford it, it is always recommended that you hire a private attorney to represent you. Many lawyers will give you options to make payments in installments, or pay off your balance over time.
Hiring and paying an attorney is the only way to guarantee that all of your specific needs are met and that the attorney will be working for you directly throughout the process. Especially in criminal proceedings, when the stakes are high, you want someone on your side that is working for you, without any other external agenda.
Every case is different. Be sure to contact an experienced attorney to guarantee that your questions are answered and you are on the right path moving forward.
This article is not intended to replace actual legal advice, specific to your situation. While information online is useful at helping you understand specific laws and manage your expectations, you should always consult an attorney in person before making any decisions regarding your case.
If you are looking for a Houston criminal defense attorney, or advice on legal issues including DWIs, domestic violence, shoplifting, or other offenses, contact Christopher T. Gore for more info on how he can best represent your case.