We all might at some point come face to face with the law. Whether it’s getting a parking or traffic ticket, or even being arrested and spending the night in jail, one day you might need to be represented in court with the help of a criminal attorney. It can be very intimidating to undergo the process of finding a good lawyer, but it’s crucial you seek legal representation if you or a loved one is ever in jail.
In addition to getting the help of a lawyer for someone in jail, it’s also important you know how to get them to communicate with you or your loved one. Communicating and choosing the best lawyer is only one of the ways you can ensure your jail time and punishment is reduced in a court of law. The best criminal defense lawyer can also make sure you or your loved one is proven innocent before a judge or jury. Below are some tips you can use to get someone the help of a lawyer, whether they’re in jail or not.
Using a Public Defender
Under constitutional law, everyone has the right to get the help of a lawyer even if they can’t afford it. These lawyers work for the local government, including the state or federal government. They are known as state or federal public defenders, and they represent clients during their time in court. Public defenders are assigned to their clients, so there’s no need for you to worry about reaching out to lawyers and inquiring about the cost of their services for you or a loved one.
Public defenders are only assigned if you have been convicted of a crime and charges are filed against you in a specific courtroom. Only the public defenders from these specific courts will be able to help you with your case. You cannot use a public defender that does not work for the specific court you have been assigned to, one that has any conflict of interests with you, or one that is not legally qualified (i.e., your friend that’s still in law school and not a full-fledge attorney).
If, for any reason, there is a conflict of interest between you and the public defender’s office, don’t worry, you can still get the help of an alternate public defender available in some states such as California.
Using a public defender helps give you peace of mind since there is no financial burden. Keep in mind, if you are found guilty and a judge decides you must pay part of the bill and legal costs, this amount is based on a sliding income scale. This means that you can only pay what you can afford for legal services. If paying any amount would harm you financially, then you would pay nothing.
How To Get Help From A Public Defender
There is no need to check to see if your public defender has the proper credentials (as this is done by the state or courthouse that hires them), and there’s no need to worry about whether or not they will deny services to you. In most states, your public defender will represent you even if you are not a legal citizen of the United States. This is especially important, as new research shows that illegal immigrants are at a higher likelihood of being incarcerated in various states such as Arizona in New Jersey. This is disheartening information, which makes it all the more important to get the help of a public defender that can help you or a loved one in jail regardless of their citizenship status.
Public defenders will also work with you even if you are a resident who lives outside of the state. For instance, if you’re a tourist from Texas who is arrested in Nevada, as long as there are criminal charges filed against you in a Nevada courthouse, you can use a Nevada public defender.
Public defenders can have certain qualities to help you or a loved one in jail. This includes excellent communication skills, the ability to speak you or your loved ones’ language, and the ability to be empathetic and receptive to your struggles. Most public defenders are here to help you or a loved one in jail.
Changing Public Defenders
Unfortunately, not all public defenders will be so kind and helpful when representing you in court. If you feel your public defender is not doing their best to represent you or a loved one, if they refuse to communicate with you, or for other special circumstances, you can always reach out to a judge who will help if you decide to file a motion for a new public defender.
A new public defender will be assigned to your case, and they will be able to be caught up to speed when representing you or your loved one. Remember, not all judges will be understanding and accommodate your request for new legal representation. The first step to take if you believe you are experiencing trouble with a public defender is to work out your differences in person. Try to reconcile and be honest about what you don’t like about them, whether it’s a poor attitude, poor work ethic, or bad communication skills.
How Soon to Get a Lawyer
In many cases, you or your loved one might be put in jail due to a crime that was witnessed by a police officer. Things like assault, reckless driving, DUI, and other witnessed crimes will automatically put you behind bars until you can either get the help of a bail bond agent to bail you out of jail, you can pay the bail yourself, or you are granted no-bail by a judge.
This is also known as being released on your own recognizance. In this case, no bail is required for you to leave jail, and you must sign a statement saying you will re-appear in court at a later date for your arraignment. This is where you will plead either guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the crime you are being charged for. If you choose to continue to plead your innocence, you will have to face pre-trial, motions, preliminary hearings, and ultimately sentencing if you are found guilty.
At any stage of these court hearings, you can bring with you a public defender or another lawyer. For instance, if you’re released on no-bail and come back later to your arraignment for a DUI charge, DUI lawyers can help you in your second court appearance to fight on your behalf.
If you or a loved one is charged with a misdemeanor, it’s still a good idea to get the help of a lawyer. Your loved one in jail can talk to their lawyer usually within two court days of being arrested, which is when they will be taken to their arraignment hearing. However, they can ask to speak to a public defender beforehand.
Getting in Touch with a Lawyer Before Court
So far we’ve talked about public defenders, which are a good option if you or your loved one cannot afford a lawyer. However, many courts will require you or your loved one to prove and swear under oath that you do not have the funds or means to hire a lawyer, and some judges might not appoint you a public defender if you cannot prove this under oath.
In this case, you can get the help of a private criminal defense lawyer, who will charge you on an hourly basis or use a set fee. Unlike personal injury attorneys, who can help you win big settlements and file huge lawsuits against corporations or other businesses, criminal defense lawyers are here to prove your innocence or reduce your jail time. As such, they do not get paid from any big settlements won, much like personal injury attorneys would. This is why if you’re looking to get a lawyer for someone in jail, expect to pay a hefty amount if hiring an outside lawyer.
Some lawyers will even work on your case pro bono, meaning for free. Many cities now have legal aid advocates and pro bono services that can take on you or your loved one’s case for free if they believe in your innocence. These lawyers are just as good if not better than Public defenders, and will be there to work with you free of charge.
Whether you choose a public defender, private criminal lawyer, or reach out to pro bono services, it’s important to know you can have a lawyer present every step of the way. If you or your loved one have been arrested or are being questioned by police, keep in mind the police will inform you of whether or not you can have a lawyer present. In many instances, you can choose to have a lawyer with you during police questioning.
Communicating With A Lawyer From Jail
You or your loved one can reach out to your lawyer by calling the local public defender’s office and giving the name of the person in jail. During business hours, they will make every attempt to return your call. You can speak to a lawyer and get help for someone in jail even before your arraignment by using this method. Most public defender offices and lawyer offices know that their clients are in jail, and as such will answer incoming direct calls from jail.
Public defenders and criminal defense lawyers also know that e-mail, internet, and cell phone usage are limited, if not non-existent. If you or a loved one are in jail, never break the law and use a non-permitted cell phone to contact your lawyer, as this can add to more jail time. It’s best to simply reach out to your lawyer using the phones at the jail, or through written correspondence.
The best lawyers will warn you that phone lines are recorded, and mail is subject to being searched when you are in prison. Although conversations between lawyers and clients are protected, it’s best to stay away from having full legal conversations over the phone and keep phone calls at a minimum. Experienced lawyers will also label their written correspondence as confidential so that jail employees know not to open them as they are protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Speaking To Lawyers On The Outside
Better than phone calls and letters, it’s to see if you can get the help of a bail bonds service so you can get your loved one out of jail and allow them to meet in person with their lawyer.
It’s much easier to prepare for court with a public defender or private lawyer outside of jail. Although you can meet in person with a lawyer during court proceedings, these might be few and far in between. This is especially true if the court system has backed-up cases, and is overcrowded with inmates.
Looking For The Best Representation
Overall, it’s best to look for a lawyer by researching their credentials, looking at reviews, and asking if they’ve worked on similar cases before. For instance, although car accident lawyers are an excellent resource for you or a loved one after an accident, they won’t be able to help you during your criminal proceedings.
Similarly, if you’re involved in a car accident and need a lawyer to examine evidence and gather witness statements for you, a criminal lawyer probably won’t do this kind of work for you.
You should also ask plenty of questions with the lawyer or public defender you plan to pay and use for you or a loved one. If you are arrested for a drug offense, ask what some treatments and strategies are in court, such as whether or not your lawyer will ask for drug addiction treatment instead of jail time. This is just one example of many of how asking questions can help you choose the right lawyer with the right game plan.
Public defenders, private lawyers, and even accident lawyers all have one thing in common- they’re here to help you win. It’s important you take the time to ask questions and research the best lawyer to help your loved one in jail.