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NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

The Benefit of a Good Criminal Defense Attorney


Think Twice before Going to Court Alone

As an attorney, I'm often asked if it makes sense to hire an attorney for certain situations that some people think aren't that serious. I almost always say yes. Sometimes I'm asked to be candid. My answer is still yes. Ask yourself this question: If money was no object, would I want a good lawyer to help me with this? If your answer is yes, you have your answer. Now, I realize that money doesn't grow on trees and even though we want the best for ourselves, our sons and daughters, and our friends and relatives, we are also consumers who have to wonder about the benefit for every cost. But if you aren't the one who would have to spend time in a jail cell, you may not be aware of the risk and the benefit of having a skilled attorney at your side. Always consider the cost of jail and a criminal record and if you aren't the one who got arrested, try to put yourself in his or her shoes because it may help you understand what's at stake.

jail outcomes for criminal defendants

For some people, hiring a lawyer is something that they are going to do no matter what. For others, they would like to hire a lawyer but are unable to afford one. There are some people in the middle who have been told by the police officer who arrested them or by others that they don't need a lawyer, or they are simply hoping to avoid an unnecessary expense by going with a public defender or legal aid. The reality is that we have an adversarial system. The police officer who arrested you is not on your side and has no legal obligation to give you honest advice. Maybe your arresting officer is hoping you don't get a good lawyer because that could be bad for him/her. Other people who downplay hiring a lawyer might just be telling you what you want to hear. Our criminal justice system is often a zero-sum game meaning that if they win, you lose and if you win, they lose. Who you select as your attorney is your first move in this game. If you hire someone who is cheap but inexperienced, you may be unable to recover from this mistake later on. Spending several million on a dream-team of lawyers like OJ Simpson may not be necessary, but you should take the decision seriously because there may be more at stake than your realize. For example, a criminal conviction, even without a jail sentence, can lead to permanent loss of employment, loss of professional licenses, immigration status, and can interfere with getting an apartment. Certain felony convictions can additionally force you to move away from certain neighborhoods and can lead to a loss of voting rights. There is a correlation between felony convictions and homelessness in large part due to the stigma of the conviction.

Mother Jones, in a 2013 article, found significant lapses in the public defender system. They concluded that people who had the public defender were in serious trouble and the charts below are from that article.

Consider these 4 reasons to avoid the public defender (legal aid / court appointed lawyer).

1. The public defender is too busy for your case and may want to plead you guilty ASAP

As you can see from the chart above, public defenders are often burdened by excessive caseloads. I've encountered legal aid attorneys who have hundreds of clients that they are trying to manage. It's not unusual for public defenders to forget their client's names, facts of their cases, lose contact information, and generally feel too busy to sit down with their clients to discuss the facts of the case and defense strategy. This can lead to disastrous consequences.

2. Long ago, the voters decided to spend more on putting you in jail than on your defense lawyer

free lawyer in court is not a good idea nyc

Think about it. Funding the police department and District Attorney is seen as being "tough" on crime. Funding the public defender or legal aid office is seen as putting criminals back on the street.

3. The US spends a very, very small amount on your public defense attorney

yes, hiring a lawyer for your desk appearance ticket is smart in nyc new york

If you or a loved-one has been arrested in New York City, contact us for a Evaluation evaluation. Never go to court alone.