Public defenders are the backbone of our justice system. In most areas, they represent the majority of those charged with crimes, and at both the federal and state level, they are free, upfront. However, some local systems do bill the clients at the conclusion of the state. Unfortunately, being the justice system’s backbone does not provide any favors as they are some of the most overworked and underpaid lawyers in the entire justice system. They also, often, do not have the same resources that a private attorney or the state/federal attorney may have access to, like support (paralegals, interns, support staff, etc.), expert witnesses, investigators, etc. As such, many want to know if they can shop around for an attorney.
Are public defenders permanent?
No. Public defenders are there to ensure that everyone’s right to counsel is met at both the state and federal levels. However, for many of those facing charges, the public defender only represents them at the beginning of their case, like at the initial arraignment and bail hearing. After that, many people decide to get a private criminal defense attorney, one with the resources, time and staff unavailable to public defenders.
The place to look: family and friends
People who have used and had success with a criminal defense attorney, and whom you trust, are the first resource for finding an attorney. In fact, one may find that they have resources and connections they did not realize, or at least know whom to avoid in Maryland.
As with most things in life, Google can provide help with finding a criminal defense attorney, as can Yelp and a plethora of other review websites, both industry-specific and otherwise. Unfortunately, all of these websites have pay models that may reward firms willing to pay, and often, unless someone was extremely unhappy, reviewing attorneys online is not popular. After all, to admit that one had a great experience with a criminal attorney is to alert everyone that knows that person that they needed a criminal attorney. This is why it may just be better to look up attorneys in the local bar association directory, if one cannot find any referrals from Annapolis, Maryland, friends or family.
Background and experience
When deciding between lawyers, the first place to look is their background and experience. How long have they practiced law? How successful have they been? Have they worked on similar cases? Ask these questions, and be sure to get a clear picture (in writing) of fees upfront as well. This will help avoid confusion later. However, most importantly of all, look for the lawyer who makes you feel comfortable. Call them. Talk to them. After all, most Annapolis, Maryland, attorneys provide free or reduced-price initial consultations.