How to choose an attorney or deal with a public defense attorney.

June 11, 2013

So, you got busted. You were given a public defender and you're not sure if you should use him or hire a lawyer. Here are some tips and things to look out for when choosing a lawyer or public defender to represent you.

First, before you get busted, you should always know - never to talk to the police. Don't talk to them at all. Don't give them some story about why they got the wrong guy or how you were innocent because you didn't know your friende that with with you was committing a crime. Just don't say anything. A good lawyer will tell you the same.

What you need:

You really need a figther. Not just someone who knows the law. A figheter will stand up for you in court. When the DA presents things that shouldn't be admitted, a god lawyer will prevent it from being admitted. A bad lawyer will just sit back and let it be presented, or just let the judge overrule an object - a real lawyer will not allow that to happen - he will yell at the judge if he has to. These are a rare breed, but this is what you want. These are the attorneys who win cases.

Criminal defense lawyers:

Without tooting our own horn, we recomment the ones on our lawyer list. We don't get any kind of comission for sending you to them, but we know that these are good lawyers. There are rating sites like avvo.com that will give you a lawyers rating - but many lawyers have high ratings because of their past experience, but might not be right for getting you off of your charge. We know most of these lawyers personally, or our lawyers have vouched for them and told us they will fight for you. But all that aside, lets look at some of the things you should look for in ANY lawyer before you hire them.

Many lawyers offer a free consultation. There is no harm in going for a consultation, but prepare yourself not to sign any paperwork during that meeting. Be prepared to be presured into it, and if they presure you too hard, you probably don't want to go with that law firm. Firms like that are all about sales, and once they have you signed, they will focus on the next sale and not your case.

Look for spezializations and knowledge of expert witnesses that might be able to help with your case. If you're getting charged with DUI or posession of drugs, look for a lawyer with specific experience in those areas. There are many little things that a specialist attorney will know - like how to prove a breath or blood test is invalid, or an expert attorney who can disprove fingerprint evidence. ASK THEM about any cases they have had similar to yours and what the outcome was. Don't expect they will be able to do the same for you, but if they were able to get a positive outcome, they will defend you better than a less expensive attorney who doesn't have that experience.

Watch out for "dump truck attorneys" or "plea whores". These are the lawyers who will convince you that they are the best, but at your first hearing will tell you that the cards are stacked against you and that you should plea guilty. Don't ever let a lawyer take $5k of your money to plea guilty. Unless of course they can convince the DA to bring down the penalty first. Many lawyers have a reputation of pleaing guilty for all cases, although you wont know it when you meet with them because their clients think they actually did them a favor by pleaing guilty. You can plea guilty yourself. You don't need a private attorney or even a PDA. In fact some attorneys we know peraonlly have told their clients not to hire them and just to plea guilty. This is never something you want to hear, but at least you are saving some money. Always ask the lawyer what he thinks he can do about your case, and what options you have. He won't have all the information, but he should be able to tell you some things that might work.

Public defense attorneys:

These fall all over the place. Some of them are good strong fighers, while many others are law school graduates who coudn't get a job at any firm so they took the low road. Some of them chose the job because they wanted to help the public and spend long hours working cases for people who don't even thank them. Many of them are overworked, and when they look at their counterparts with their own offices, they believe they are under paid - and many of the good ones are. Many PDAs are actually paid by the DAs office, which would be a conflict of interest in any system other than the american judicial system. But thats just something we have to deal with.

If you can't afford a private attorney and you need to go with a public defense attorney, here are a few things you should look out for. For one thing, you're not tied to one attorney. If you feel that the attorney is not doing his/her job, you can tell them that you would like to speak with another attorney. In most cases they will be happy to hand you over to someone else to lighten their load. If they don't even try to convince you to stay, then you're probably doing the right thing.

Make them fight for you! Many of them think that you are just another criminal passing through the system, and they want to get you off their plate by convincing you to take the DAs initial offer. But if you push them a little, sometimes you can get great results. For example, if you suspect the cop has filed your paperwork with false information, you can push your PDA to ask for records of complaints against that officer. They might not find anything, but they should at least try. Some PDAs will think you are just being a pain and won't do that for you. Those are the guys you fire. Ones that are willing to do the extra work and file the required requests to find out - those are the ones you want to keep. You might still have to push them when you want something, but you have to push. It's your life thats on the line - not theirs. This is also true for private attorneys - the best of who can have their bad days.

Whatever you do:

always show your appreciation to an attorney. This common courtesy goes a long way, whether it's a public defense attorney or a private attorney. They are people and they do like knowing that their efforts are appreciated. Do some reasearch of your own so you know what defenses are available and ask them if they think that would be a valid defense. If they tell you know, ask why not. Put some serious thought into their answer to determine if they are just blowing you off to be lazy, or if it is really not a good defense.


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