Articles Posted in Hiring the Right Lawyer

supreme court.jpgYou have the right to counsel of your choice. If you can afford it, you need to hire the best attorney for your case that you can. Under current economic conditions, many cannot afford the attorney they need and must petition the court for counsel. If indigent by standards set in Texas, you are entitled to a court appointed attorney (but cannot choose which specific attorney).

Courts have an awesome (sometimes life and death) responsibility to appoint lawyers in capital case dedicated to going the extra mile to ensure that the accused truly has the most able assistance of counsel possible. The Code of Criminal Procedures sets the minimum qualification for such counsel. Additionally, the 6th Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees ALL persons accused of a crime the right to effective assistance of counsel. But what does this mean? Surely someone simply standing or sitting (or sleeping) by the client as the prosecutor buries him is not enough. You don’t get a lawyer just to hold your hand while you plead guilty, or even one to do an OK job but miss key facts.

Courts have held that you are, at a minimum, entitled to a lawyer whose performance in your case is reasonable under prevailing professional norms (mainly established by the American Bar Association) and whose representation does not prejudice your case. However, appellate courts presume that a lawyer’s representation is reasonable, and that most choices made in the course of representation are “trial strategy.” Lawyers will oftentimes lie about their errors (or motives for committing them) in post-conviction challenges to protect their reputation at the expense of their client’s freedom or life. That is the reality.

Suprised.jpgI was sitting at court last week when I overhead a non-lawyer assistant at a district attorney’s office giving someone charged in a criminal case (a case that would be very hard to prove) advice about their case. Apparently, the person had somehow “waived” their right to an attorney and wanted to speak with the prosecutor’s office. She was getting advice on how long she would sit in jail when she “booked in and booked out” on her charges, which prompted me to ask why she didn’t have a lawyer. Texas law now requires courts to inquire as to waivers of attorneys and the court should ensure that the waiver is voluntarily, and the prosecutor’s office is not to encourage people to waive counsel. However, these new rules don’t mean much when citizens accused are afraid to ask for a lawyer to talk about their case.

If you are facing actual jail time, the Constitution GUARANTEES you the right to an attorney to not only talk to you about your case, but to defend your rights and to competently represent you at trial if you so choose. While some people might not take this right very seriously, if you are facing jail time, and YES, probation on a jail time case means jail time if you violate probation, YOU NEED A LAWYER. A court appointed lawyer has much more legal training and ability than a non-lawyer. Most courts seek to have competent counsel on their appointment lists because they do not want to have to re-try a case if a lawyer is found to have committed malpractice.

Thus, it is YOUR RIGHT and you should say NO to waiving your right to counsel. I have talked to many bailiffs who agree that they would not be found NEAR a courtroom without a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court must appoint one FREE OF CHARGE. Also, most attorneys give FREE initial consultations for criminal clients, so why not talk to one about what possible defenses you might have to a case? Pleading guilty is usually permanent, so why go in blind when our government guarantees you a right to counsel? Either hire one or see if you qualify for an appointed lawyer!