The 6 Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that any defendant that is charged with a criminal offense, (whether it’s a felony or misdemeanor), that can result in an incarceration, has the right to legal counsel. In this country, if a person cannot afford an attorney in such a case, then the court will appoint one for them free of charge. The question that many people want to know is if a public defender is any good.
How Is Someone Appointed A Public Defender?
Once a suspect is charged with a criminal offense the law says that they must appear before the court within a certain period of time. Once the defendant appears in court the judge will ask them if they have an attorney and if they can afford one. In order for the individual to receive a court-appointed attorney, they will need to fill out a form where they give the amount of assets they have, debts, and the amount of income that they currently earn. Once it has been established that the person cannot afford an attorney under the rules of law, then an attorney will be appointed to them.
When the defendant chooses to accept a court-appointed attorney they will not be able to choose who their attorney is. Most courts use a public defender’s office or in some cases, there is a Board of Private Attorneys that have been approved by the court. The judge will assign one of those attorneys to the case.
Are All Public Defenders Bad Attorneys?
While the TV and the cinema promote that public defenders are bad attorneys this is not always the case. In fact, very successful and highly experienced attorneys are sometimes appointed as a public defender. But there is a truth in the fact that many public defenders are overworked and underpaid.
Their intentions may be very good. But often the court and the system that runs it is more concerned with efficiency than the rights of defendants. It is a sad truth that too many defendants simply get pushed through the system instead of getting a proper legal defense.
Anyone convicted of a criminal offense should have a lawyer. If they can’t pay for one then a public defender is considerably better than no attorney at all. A defendant could luck out and get a great lawyer appointed to them. But since the individual has no say in who they get when the court appoints a public defender, then the quality of the defense is luck of the draw.