How Can You Obtain a Lawyer? What Happens If You Can't Afford One?

How Can You Obtain a Lawyer? What Happens If You Can’t Afford One?

A lawyer can help you navigate a criminal case from arrest to release. There are lawyers in every state willing to take on criminal cases and who can represent you in court. But how do you obtain a lawyer for your case? And what are your options if you cannot afford a lawyer?

How can you obtain a lawyer?

One way to find a lawyer is through friends, family and other people you may know. These people can either recommend an attorney they used previously or help you research for the right lawyer. When it is possible, keeping your family involved can help share the work of getting prepared for a criminal case.

You can also find an attorney through online searches. However, when looking at a website, you may only see what a lawyer wants you to see. If you find an attorney through the internet, be sure to read reviews from previous clients.

Searching community websites is another way to find the right lawyer for you. Some communities have resource lists called a “local referral service.” These are teams of specialized lawyers for certain types of cases. Local referral services usually have qualifications attorneys must meet to be on them.

How can a lawyer help you?

Your lawyer can help you throughout your case in multiple ways. In addition, an attorney can assist you even after your case. For example, your lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf if you are in prison. In general, that’s only something that you and your lawyer can do, no one else. Additionally, an attorney may be able to answer certain questions others cannot.

How can you find a low-cost lawyer?

Sometimes, you may not be able to afford the hourly cost of a lawyer. You can contact a local law school to see if they have a pro bono program and if you qualify. For legal questions and advice, you can contact your state’s bar association. These associations may offer phone appointments for you to speak with attorneys. There are also nonprofit organizations known as legal aid societies. They offer legal help to low-income families.

You can use a public defender if you cannot afford a lawyer.
Image courtesy of Sora Shimazaki via Pexels.

What happens if you cannot afford a lawyer?

A court will appoint a lawyer to represent you if you can’t afford one. In the United States, everyone has a right to an attorney in a criminal case. This means that the judge will either appoint a private attorney to represent you or an attorney from a public defender’s office. These attorneys are paid by public funds, not you (except for in some rare cases).

According to the Department of Justice, approximately 66% of federal criminal defendants end their case with a public defender or other court-appointed lawyer. That is even more true in state court, where approximately 82% of defendants charged with felonies end their cases with a publicly funded lawyer.

Another benefit of court-appointed attorneys is that they are more likely to know your judge and the prosecution. However, court-appointed attorneys are often overworked and underpaid. As result, they may spend less time on your case compared to a private attorney. In addition, their work for you may have limits. For example, they may not be willing to file a civil lawsuit for you. But they can represent you during your criminal case and may even do so on appeal.

The Takeaway:

Having a lawyer can help you during your case and during incarceration. There are several ways to find a lawyer for your case. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one for your criminal case. Also, you can always look on the internet, in advertisements and for recommendations from friends and family.

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