If you are charged with a serious crime, but you don't have the funds to pay an attorney, what are your options? You may have more than you think.
Court appointed legal assistance
You are probably aware of your right to a court-appointed lawyer, but if you don't meet income level guidelines, this option may not be readily available to you. However, while you may have a high income and possess some assets which would typically disqualify you for assistance, you may wonder how you can afford an attorney since you might also be deeply in debt or have significant medical or other expenses.
If this is the case, you will need to explain these circumstances to the court, and the judge may appoint counsel for you.
Public defenders get a great deal of experience working for the court, but they can also be overworked and have many backlogged cases, so you might face extra pressure to take a plea from them. This can motivate many a determined defendant to look for a private attorney.
Pro Bono Services
Some lawyers will take an occasional pro bono (without payment) case but to find one you may need to check with your state's bar association. You should also check with your area's legal aid society to see if they would provide you with the services you need.
There are also three other potential sources of low or no cost types of assistance you could tap into:
- You could try the legal clinic of the closest law school to you. These are staffed by law students who may want to take on your case for the experience, and have free services or use a sliding fee scale. Some of these clinics are also funded through federal grants.
- If you are a college student, you may be entitled to a consult with a lawyer who works for the university.
- If you employed, you could be entitled to a free consult and referral through your employer's Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Even though attorneys can be wary of legal coaching because they feel it is risky not to be in charge of all aspects of a case, some may be amenable to helping you with various aspects of your case if you want to represent yourself. You may have to do some convincing that you are capable, can do your own research, and are confident.
Some things they may be willing as to do as à la carte services are:
- Prepare, file, and serve documents,
- Give you some guidance on research,
- Answer questions as they come up,
- Be on call during your trial, and
- Be willing to take over if necessary.
And finally, if you have a special skill, your attorney may open to bartering with you. Some skills that they might be interested in are medical, dental, accounting, website design, and other professional services, house painting, mechanical work, carpentry, or skilled craftwork. It really can't hurt to ask. For further assistance, contact a local criminal defense lawyer, such as Russ Jones Attorney At Law.