Lakeland, FL (Law Firm Newswire) April 22, 2015 - T.V. crime shows have made many familiar with the part of the Miranda warning stating that if the offender cannot afford an attorney, the court may appoint one for them. The U.S. constitution guarantees the right of an accused to speak to an attorney.
Public defenders came into being in the United States in 1963, as a result of a decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright. It stated the Sixth Amendment mandates that the government provide free legal counsel to indigent defendants in criminal cases.
“An accused must understand that they have to ask for an attorney, whether that may be their own choice of legal counsel or they wish to have a court-appointed lawyer,” says Thomas C. Grajek, a Lakeland, Fla. criminal defense attorney. “Legal representation is not automatically accorded to those facing criminal allegations.”
Those accused of a crime and arrested in the United States have the undeniable right to speak with an attorney after the police have detained them. If they are not able to pay for the services of a lawyer, they may request that a judge appoint one for either no cost or minimal cost. Court-appointed legal assistance is designed to protect an accused’s rights throughout the criminal court process.
To obtain a court-appointed attorney, the accused must meet certain eligibility criteria. The charges must be serious enough that the defendant may end up in jail should they be found guilty. Additionally, the accused must be able to prove they have insufficient funds to hire an attorney and must divulge to the court what any expenses, income and family obligations may be.
Most court-appointed attorneys, also referred to as public defenders, work full-time for the state or county. If a public defender is not available to take a case that the court wants to assign them, the judge may assign a private local attorney to represent the defendant.
No matter what happens during the course of the criminal process involving hearings, line-ups, questioning and various meetings, the role of the public defender is to protect the rights of the accused. Court-appointed attorneys do exactly what a private attorney would do to prepare a client for court, including questioning witnesses, offering evidence, advising on any possible plea deals and speaking before a judge and/or jury.
The ultimate decision maker during the whole process is the accused and that includes asking for a replacement for court-appointed counsel, should the attorney do a poor job prepping a case.
Thomas C. Grajek
206 Easton Drive, Suite 102
Lakeland, FL 33803
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