We take a lot of calls from frustrated defendants who can’t make contact with their assigned lawyer. Not only are they frustrated, they are usually pretty scared about the months of delays without any contact. A legal issue will make anyone stressed but being unable to discuss your DUI or other criminal charge with your lawyer can feel overwhelming.
Over the last few months, there has been ongoing problems with communication due to staffing issues. In more than one court, the public defenders are contracted from a private law firm to do public defense cases. Unfortunately, there has been steady turnover such that it is becoming impossible for the law firms to staff the public defense position.
There have also been local attorneys who left defense to do prosecution but did not notify all of the defense clients that they no longer have an attorney. Clearly, it has been a challenge for everyone involved to keep cases on track and to reach a resolution or go to trial in timely manner.
What If I Keep Calling But The PD Will Not Return My Call?
Often, the accused person who calls our office will want to know if their case will be dropped because they do not have any help from legal counsel. Unfortunately, the fact that you cannot reach your public defender does not equate to a dismissal.
To be blunt, there is not much you can do if your public defender won’t call you back other than to go to the office and wait for an appointment. If you have a job Monday through Friday, this is likely not an option for you. Since the public defender will be in court half of the day, it could be a long wait. If you are truly tired of waiting, it might be time for you to hire private counsel if you want to get your case resolved.
On the positive side, since this is a fairly common problem, many judges and prosecutors are understanding about requests for additional continuances. This means, if you stay with your public defender, you may have many more pretrial hearings following your Arraignment. This could go on for a year or more.
Additionally, pretrial hearings do not necessarily mean you are going to trial. They are more like status hearings so the court and prosecutor can determine what is happening procedurally in the case. The judge might get pretty frustrated with the public defender or the defendant and order them to make contact. Unfortunately, that does not usually result in any actual communication because there is no consequence for the public defender.
What Are My Options?
When a person qualifies for a public defender due to indigency, this does not mean the person must use a public defender. At the Arraignment, where public defense can be assigned, the judge often makes statements such as “report to your assigned counsel or public defender” but that is just intended to motivate the defendant to “go do something on your case.”
You need to get working on your defense but you do not have to do that with a public defender. You can go hire your own private defense attorney all the way up to trial. (Use caution in waiting because hiring a defense attorney late in the case is not generally a good idea. The benefits of private counsel is usually most obvious early in the case before the prosecutor “draws a line in the sand” on specific issues.)
Many of our clients cannot afford an experienced private defense attorney on their own but the client’s family or friends will assist with payments so the case can get resolved in a more positive and expeditious manner. When you consider factors such as bail reduction, keeping the ability to drive, letters to supervisors for work, or guidance on many other consequences that will have a financial impact on the defendant, paying for the help of a private attorney is often much more cost effective than sitting and waiting for a year or more for the case to get resolved with a public defender. Additionally, if you have had no contact with your public defender, the odds that the case is resolved in a way that considers the financial consequences is unlikely.
Private Defense Is Available 7 Days A Week
We are open 7 days a week to assist with criminal defense cases. This area of law requires attorneys to be committed to handling emergency-type situations. Answering the phone 7 days a week is not common for other areas of law. If you have a non-criminal defense issue, please contact our office during business hours from 8-6. However, if you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI or another crime, has been waiting to hear from a public defender, or is simply tired of how long the case has been dragging out, please reach out to one of our lawyers immediately. We are ready to help. 360-792-1000