After being arrested or issued a desk appearance ticket, who can you turn
to for advice? For most of us, an arrest signals the start of a criminal
prosecution which could jeopardize your reputation, career, immigration
status, finances, or even your liberty. Your attorney is more than a person
who stands next to you in court, he or she is your source of accurate
information about your situation, your counsel when deciding what strategy
to chose, and your guide through an increasingly complex criminal system.
If you or a loved one has been arrested, you should consult with a New
York City criminal defense attorney right away.
We've all heard that if you can't afford an attorney, one will
be provided by the court. When does this happen? Will you qualify for
the public defender? Even if you qualify, what experienced do they have?
Will they have time for your case?
To save money, the State of New York appoints your public defender minutes
before appearing in front of the judge and sometimes even after you've
appeared in court unrepresented. The last minute appointment and high
caseload deprives you of access to an attorney before court (or the "return
date" on your desk appearance ticket) meaning you can't effectively
prepare, find out what you can expect, or if you have a defense.
You will also share this busy public attorney with over 500 other people.
In a 9-24-14 article by the Associated Press, it was revealed that the
average attorney defending the poor across New York averaged 680 cases
last year, nearly double the "safe" limit. (3) This troubling statistic is more than a shame - it could damage your
future if you end up being represented by an overburdened public defender.
This could happen if you are forced into a conviction that you should
have avoided or if you are given incorrect or incomplete information about
what happened with your case in court.
Will I Qualify?
The Legal Aid Society, one of the largest public defenders in criminal
cases, lists the following income eligibility chart on their website:
Even I Qualify, Should I Allow Myself to be Represented by the Public Defender?
I recently read the following story in the New York Times about New York's
court-appointed attorneys that caught my attention. It was even more concerning
than the Associated Press article summarized above.
"Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who last year declared a crisis
in America's legal-defense system for the poor, is supporting a class-action
lawsuit that accuses Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State of New York of
perpetuating a system that violates the rights of people who cannot afford
to hire lawyers.
The lawsuit claims that public defenders in New York are so overworked
and over-matched that poor people essentially receive no legal defense
at all. It describes a system in which indigent defendants navigate courts
nearly alone, relying on spotty advice from lawyers who do not have the
time or money to investigate their cases or advise them properly.
Because of substandard legal aid, children are taken from their parents,defendants in minor cases are jailed for long periods and people are imprisoned
for crimes for which they might have been acquitted, the civil rights lawyers who filed the suit said....
In some felony cases, according to the lawsuit, staffing shortages have
meant that defendants spoke to their lawyers for less than one hour. Some
lawyers said they had never spoken with their clients in person. Investigators,
whose work might undermine the prosecution and offer reasonable doubt,
were rarely hired....
The New York public-defender system has been "abusing low- and middle-class
people in this system since 1965," said Jonathan E. Gradess, the executive director of the New York State
Defenders Association, who said he expected to testify at trial. "It's
broken. It's just terrible. We're just damaging people every single
Public Defenders vs. Your Private Attorney
Individual public defenders are often well-meaning people but on a whole,
they are overburdened which inevitably leads to problems. The investigation
into New York's public defenders sheds light on the importance that
you find an attorney you trust and you feel is right for your case. When
you or a loved one has been arrested, you only have one opportunity to
find the best lawyer because convictions are, generally, permanent. Consider
this: With your reputation or freedom at stake, do you want to be represented
by the public defender or an experienced private criminal defense attorney?
If you are represented by the public defender, the attorney assigned to
your case might be representing 30 or more people with you on your court
date alone. By comparison, your private attorney will be familiar with
the facts of your case and know your concerns and possible defenses.
Even the most minor misdemeanor can lead to a permanent record that can
lead to employment and background complications for the rest of your life.
With everything at stake, you deserve quality representation from a private
criminal defense law firm.
Lance Fletcher has successfully handled thousands of criminal cases in
New York City, Westchester, and Long Island involving a wide variety of
charges. Mr. Fletcher will make your case a priority and explore every
strategy to achieve the outcome that you need.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
1. New York Times, 9/25/2014 "Holder Backs Suit in New York Faulting
Legal Service for Poor"
2. Income Eligibility from Legal-Aid.Org
3. Report details NY indigent defense caseloads, Associated press 9-24-14