The short answer to this question is yes, but having an attorney appointed is not always as easy as requesting an assignment. Courts often evaluate the defendant’s income and financial resources in determining if they can afford an attorney, and many times the defendant is required to pay a “reasonable” fee for services rendered. The question always comes down to what is reasonable, which is the most overused word in the legal vocabulary. Financial obligations are rarely a component of the court decision concerning assigning a public defender, so there can surely be some extenuating circumstances that does not interest the court. However, it rarely bodes well for a defendant when a public advocate is assigned who actually works for the state because their priorities may be focused on their employment instead of the client’s interest.
Why you need an attorney
The United States Supreme Court ruled in the mid 1960s that any defendant who is potentially facing jail time is required to have adequate and effective representation who is supposed to ensure observance of all legal rights of the defendant. The problem is that public defenders are rarely aggressive when it comes time to evaluate the articles of evidence for admissibility and proper search and seizure protocol. They often are essentially representatives of the prosecutor’s office, as they work with the prosecutors on a daily basis if the state has an established public defender system. Retained personal attorneys are focused on results for their client instead of results for the state, especially regarding a case dismissal or acquittal, as public defenders rarely are willing to take a case to trial. The consensus within the court house is often that the state is entitled to a conviction merely because the defendant was charged, including the opinion of the public defender. If it is a requirement to have counsel, then it is always important to have aggressive counsel because the court protocol is often a stacked deck in favor of the prosecution.
What a paid attorney can do
The first thing a personal attorney will do is conduct a separate investigation of all events that led to charges, with each article of evidence being evaluated individually. Public defenders rarely motion the court for evidence suppression, but this is one of the primary functions of a truly professional criminal defense attorney. Even when the state has a good case, evidence can be dismissed and not allowed for consideration in determining guilt. Defendants are still guilty until proven innocent, even though the system does not always appear that way. A personal criminal defense attorney can also move to take a case to trial, which prosecutors usually do not want. All they want is a conviction to pad their record. Your paid criminal defense attorney will work diligently using all avenues to ensure you legal rights are enforced to the fullest extent of the law.
It is important to remember that hiring an aggressive criminal defense attorney is not only an investment in your personal freedom, but is also an investment in your future. The defendant always fares better when they have retained counsel focused on lessening punishment or a case dismissal instead of negotiating a plea bargain.