Michigan’s Court-Appointed Attorneys System
Aggressively Defending Clients Previously Represented by Public Defenders
You have been accused of a criminal offense in Michigan, but you are unable to hire an attorney. You should be aware that the county in which you were arrested has the responsibility of providing you with an attorney if you are unable to afford one on your own. They are often called “public defenders” or, more commonly, “court-appointed attorneys.” There are many questions about court-appointed attorneys and we will attempt to answer the most common of them here.
Do I have to pay my court-appointed attorney?
Generally, court-appointed attorneys are paid by the county government and not by the clients. However, courts may order that the defendant reimburse the county for the money paid out to the court-appointed attorney.
What if I don’t want a court-appointed attorney?
You are not required to settle for a court-appointed lawyer. You may always retain your own legal counsel. Experienced criminal defense attorneys understand the process required in a Michigan legal proceeding, and, without this knowledge, your defense can be over before it even starts. Many of our clients originally had a court-appointed attorney, but have chosen to leave their appointed attorney and hire a lawyer who thoroughly understands the questions of law that the case will ask. Other clients come to us because their court-appointed attorney is failing to give the case the attention and aggressiveness a legal defense requires. You always have the right to upgrade your representation, and you should utilize that at the moment you believe your representation is lacking! Of course, you do also have the option to represent yourself, which we do not recommend under any circumstances.
At what point in the case can I have a court-appointed attorney?
You are entitled to a court-appointed attorney at any point in your criminal proceedings. This court-appointed attorney has a right to appear at all hearings your case requires. In a typical situation, once you are given your complaint (the allegations against you), the court will then decide if you have the necessary funding to pay for your own representation. If it is determined that you do not, then a court-appointed attorney will be assigned to serve as your counsel in this legal proceeding. If you say you do not want a court-appointed attorney, the court must inform you that you will have a right to one later in your proceeding. The court must also inform you of your right to have its findings appealed by a court-appointed attorney later. The benefit to hiring your own lawyer is that your lawyer could get started on your defense before you are given your complaint, and could work towards protecting you during the police investigation (rather than only after charges have been brought).
Is there any time when I don’t have a right to a court-appointed attorney?
You have a constitutional right to an attorney “at all critical moments” of the criminal proceedings. However, if the court determines you are financially able to hire your own attorney, then a court-appointed lawyer will not be allowed.
What happens if the court-appointed attorney no longer wants to work with me?
In order for your court-appointed attorney to stop being your legal counsel, they must ask permission of the court to end the attorney/client relationship. This will not be allowed in circumstances where your defense will be unduly prejudiced. The court will oftentimes permit a representational change if another court-appointed attorney is familiar with your case. This is often when we see clients hire us as their counsel. After one or two of these attorney changes, they realize that their case is not being given the attention it deserves, causing them to upgrade to the aggressive criminal defense offered by our law firm.
What if I don’t think my court-appointed attorney did a good job representing me?
Any time that you don’t believe you are being well-represented, there are remedies available. First, you always have the right to hire a private attorney to assist you. Often times, clients begin a case without the financial ability to hire counsel and then have their situation change. Sometimes, it takes time to gather up the resources needed to retain counsel. You can replace attorneys at any time in a case. If your case is over, you can raise the ineffective assistance issue with the trial judge or in the Michigan Court of Appeals. This usually requires a Ginther hearing where your old attorney testifies about the representation. Ineffective assistance of counsel claims can be an valuable way to raise other issues, especially where your trial attorney should have made objections at trial but failed to do so. In some instances, defendants are granted new trials due to the failures of the trial attorney.
Can I fire my court-appointed attorney?
As long as you are not a minor, you may fire your court-appointed attorney at any point during your criminal trial. Be aware that the court will probably not allow you to have another court-appointed attorney. At Kronzek & Cronkright, we encounter numerous clients who have hired us after firing their court-appointed attorney. Given the choice between representing themselves (which is never recommended) and hiring the aggressive, tenacious, and highly experienced law firm of Kronzek & Cronkright, the decision is usually very clear.
We offer a free initial consultation and give you the respect and dignity you deserve. We don’t “farm out” your case and we don’t have 100-200 files on our desks causing our attention to be diverted from your case (this is a common complaint with court-appointed attorneys.) Let us help you get your case back on track. Either e-mail us using our contact form, or call us now at 1-866-766-5245.
Contact us about your legal matter today! Call us at 1-866-766-5245.