Are you familiar with the Miranda rights provided to all citizens by the Constitution? It sets out some basic rights, in particular, the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The right to remain silent is somewhat self-explanatory. The right to an attorney is a bit less clear. Is everyone entitled to an attorney? Are you entitled to an attorney regardless of the criminal charge you are facing? We are here to answer that question.
While everyone always has the option to hire an attorney, not everyone has a right to a court-appointed attorney. The right to an attorney, if you cannot afford one, was established in 1963 by a Supreme Court Case known as Gideon v. Wainwright. In order to qualify for a court-appointed attorney, you must be found indigent, meaning you don’t have a high enough income and/or enough assets to be able to afford an attorney. This is a calculation done by the court and many don’t qualify even though they aren’t really able to afford an attorney. Even if you can afford an attorney, there may be other ways to qualify for a court-appointed attorney, particularly for individuals who have a mental illness.
Additionally, you may not know that you are only entitled to an attorney for specific charges based on the consequences you are facing. In order to qualify, you must be facing incarceration. This means you won’t qualify for traffic tickets or if the prosecuting attorney has waived jail time for your specific charge.
Unfortunately, there are too many instances when someone is not actually entitled to an attorney and many people interpret that to understand they don’t need an attorney. We know far too well that the consequences people face, even if they are not facing incarceration, can be life-changing and should be taken seriously. You may not be facing jail time but facing a massive fine – this could affect your livelihood, ability to pay your bills and your family. Similarly, a conviction could result in the loss of your driver’s license or result in losing your employment, once again affecting your livelihood, ability to pay your bills and your family.
If you’re facing a criminal charge, whether it’s a misdemeanor or a more serious felony, we’d encourage you to consider hiring an attorney who is experienced and knows how to fight for your rights. And if you are hiring an attorney, make sure it’s the right attorney for you.
Facing a criminal charge? Call us today for your free consultation.