Can I fire my court appointed lawyer?

On occasion, a person will be dissatisfied with the lawyer that represents them in criminal law proceedings.  The reasons someone wants to obtain a new lawyer are various.  Reasons to want to obtain a new lawyer include the following: my lawyer does not communicate with me (the lawyer does not return phone calls, emails, and/or text messages); my lawyer does not adequately address my questions; my lawyer will not provide me with discovery materials; my lawyer will not file motions that I think are appropriate; my lawyer does not fight on my behalf; my lawyer is not on my side; there has been a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship; the lawyer has a conflict of interest; etc., etc..  With all the stress of facing a criminal charge or charges, the public defender may set your level of frustration at an all time high.


One of the main disadvantages of having a public defender is that the representation you receive is the luck (or un-luck) of the draw.  Generally, the Defendant has no choice in terms of the public defender assigned to the case.  The lawyer may or may not provide great representation.  The lawyer may or may not care about the result you obtain.  The lawyer may or may not try and get you to plead guilty, rather than go to trial, because a trial requires a lot more work.  The public defender probably has a long line of people that he or she represents, and you may feel like a number rather than a person.


When a Defendant wants a new lawyer, there are a couple ways to go about the issue.  The best way is to hire a lawyer that gives you the confidence that the case is being handled in a thorough, experienced, professional manner.  If you have the ability to hire a lawyer, take the time to figure out if you and your prospective lawyer are compatible.  Does the lawyer have the experience needed to handle the particular type of case that you have?  What is the reputation of the lawyer?  Does the lawyer seem to know his or her stuff?  Will the lawyer handle the case, or will it be assigned to an associate lawyer?


If the Defendant cannot afford to hire a new lawyer, he or she will have to make a request of the Court to obtain a new court appointed lawyer.  The Court will want the Defendant to first discuss the reason why he or she wants a new lawyer with his or her current lawyer. If the reason for the discontent is trivial, or if it is being used as a stall tactic, the Court may say no to the request.  The Court in some circumstances may even suggest to the Defendant that he or she can self represent if they are not happy with the lawyer provided.  Judges handle these types of request sometimes in different manners.  Generally, the request is less likely to be granted if it is done on the day of trial, rather than sufficiently in advance so that the Court and the witnesses are not inconvenienced.


It is important to not assume that you cannot afford a lawyer.  Many lawyers take payment plans and credit card payments.  It is important to find out what the lawyer’s fee is, instead of assuming that there is a financial inability.  Often, family and friends are willing to step forward to help.  The bottom line is that a criminal conviction can affect a Defendant’s freedom, reputation, ability to travel, finances, family relationships, employment, etc..  This should be motivation for a Defendant to make every effort to find the right attorney.


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