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What Can You Do If You Don't Like Your Public Defender?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

For the most part, public defenders are to be admired -- they work long hours at a largely thankless job with very little resources. But, as with any other profession, not all public defenders are great at what they do, they may not agree with every defendant they represent, and even a good public defender can have a bad day.

So if you're not happy with your public defender, what can you do about it?

Public Defender Problems

As you've probably seen on many a cop show, criminal defendants do have a right to a lawyer. Whether you have a right to a public defender will depend on your income and the criminal proceedings you're facing. And it may come as a shock to some to learn that public defenders are not always free. So if you're going to possibly be paying for a public defender, you might want to be sure you're getting good legal representation.

There are a few signs that you might be getting ineffective assistance of counsel:

  • If your public defender makes serious mistakes regarding legal arguments or procedure;
  • If your public defender made major decisions about your case without consulting you;
  • If your public defender misses filing, meeting, or court deadlines;
  • If your lawyer is non-responsive to requests for communication; or
  • If your public defender otherwise acts unprofessionally.

Any of these can be reasons to change public defenders, although that process isn't always easy.

Public Defender Changes

If you want to change your public defender, you will generally need to submit a written request to the court or judge in charge of your case and you may need to contact the public defender's office as well. You will also be required to submit evidence supporting the reasons for the change, so make sure you take and keep good notes about your interactions with your public defender and any complaints you've made previously.

It is generally up to the court's discretion whether to allow a criminal defendant to change counsel. So make sure you have a good reason for wanting to change your public defender and good evidence backing up that reason. And if you don't want another public defender, you can reach out to local criminal defense attorneys.

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