If you are arrested, one of the first things you need to do is arrange your legal representation. Without a lawyer by your side to guide you, there are many ways you can incriminate yourself, hurt your case, and even risk extending your sentence.
But knowing you need a lawyer is very different from knowing which lawyer you need. You want to feel confident in your legal team. Of course, you also don’t want to break the bank. What’s the best way to get a good lawyer at the right price?
The answer to this question really comes down to the first choice you’ll need to make about selecting your lawyer. Because you have the right to legal representation at your trial, you can always elect to have your case argued by a public defender.
A public defender is a lawyer appointed by the court to represent a defendant who cannot afford their own attorney. Obviously, this makes them an appealing choice for anyone struggling with the financial burden of hiring a lawyer. However, there are some details about obtaining a public defender you’ll want to be aware of.
First of all, there are very specific steps required in order to obtain a public attorney. The court will not assign you a public attorney automatically. You will need to complete an application and submit it to the judge as soon as possible. More details are available at the Minnesota Public Defender website.
The application process may involve an inquiry into your finances. So don’t try to fudge the numbers in order to improve your chances. Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not you’re financially eligible for a public defender is up to the judge. If your application is approved, the court will choose which specific public defender to assign you.
Depending on exactly where your case is heard, your public defender may belong to a public defender’s office or a private firm. Most of the time, your assigned attorney will come from a publicly funded office which exists specifically to provide public defenders. In other situations, your attorney may be a private lawyer who has signed a contract with the courts to work as a public defender for a certain number of cases.
While pro bono legal representation may represent a financial saving grace, it’s no secret that public defenders are often overworked, and may have little time to dedicate to building your defense. If you do obtain a public defender, it can be extremely helpful to do your own homework for your case. Providing your attorney with clear, well-prepared, and detailed information about your defense can help them build a solid case in less time.
If you decide that you can afford a private attorney (or if your application for a public defender is rejected), you’ll want to do your homework before selecting a lawyer. You’ll want to hire a lawyer with a proven track record of success in cases like yours. Simply spending more money on a lawyer does not necessarily mean they’ll do a better job of defending you.
All in all, the most important rule to keep in mind is this: Finding the right lawyer for your case is more important than the most expensive lawyer. As long as you’re willing to work with their busy schedules, a public defender can be a great option. On the other hand, if you do decide to spend the money on a private lawyer, make sure you spend smart!