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NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

Think You will be ok with the Public Defender Representing You?


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:

Family Size Monthly Income Yearly Income
1 $1,063 $12,762
2 $1,426 $17,112
3 $1,788 $21,462
4 $2,151 $25,812
5 $2,513 $30,162
6 $2,876 $34,512
7 $3,238 $38,862
8 $3,601 $43,212


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 day." (1)

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 Evaluation 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