You can apply for a court-appointed attorney or hire your own.
How Do I Get A Court-Appointed Attorney?
Whether or not you qualify for a court-appointed attorney depends on your charge, your criminal history, and your income and expenses. In North Carolina, you can only get a court-appointed attorney for your criminal charge if you are facing jail time.
For example, you most likely will not qualify for a public defender if you were pulled over for speeding, unless the speed you were stopped at was so high that you could go to jail for it. You also would not get an attorney for a first-time Class 3 marijuana possession charge, however you may qualify for a public defender if you have been convicted of marijuana possession multiple times.
If you are eligible for a court-appointed lawyer, the judge or magistrate will let you know and have you fill out a financial eligibility form. He or she will then determine whether you qualify for a public defender based on your income versus expenses.
If you do qualify for court-appointed counsel, the judge will give you your next court date and you should soon receive a letter from the attorney assigned to you. Make sure you contact this attorney as soon as possible.
If you do not qualify for court-appointed counsel, you have to hire your own private attorney. You likely received many letters in the mail — either call the attorneys who peak your interest or ask friends and family for recommendations. Go with a criminal defense lawyer who you feel comfortable with. If the conversation is strained from the beginning, your legal relationship with that attorney may be difficult throughout the process.
What If I’m Assigned An Attorney But I Decide To Hire My Own?
Your assigned attorney will take absolutely zero offense to this, so don’t be scared to tell him or her you have hired a private defense lawyer. Make sure you let your court-appointed lawyer know as soon as possible that you have retained counsel, and let your retained attorney know who your court-appointed lawyer is. The two will speak and transfer files and information as needed. You may have to sign something if one attorney needs to transfer the file to the other. Your court-appointed lawyer may also have to make a motion to withdraw.
If you are seeking a criminal defense attorney in Raleigh, Wake Forest, Holly Springs, Apex, or Knightdale, call me at 919-880-2124 for a free consultation on your charge.