Court Appointed Attorneys – Often NOT a Good Choice!

victim in court


You’ve heard it a thousand times before on TV shows and in movies when cops Mirandize a suspect… “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.” But what isn’t included in that overview of a defendant’s right to counsel, is the fact that statistics prove that their court appointed attorney will likely do less for them than if they hired their own criminal defense attorney.


A recent investigative journalism piece published in the Lansing State Journal dealt with this exact issue – the fact that court appointed attorneys do very little in the way of public defense. To be fair, the courts and the public defender’s office has a budget that is only a fraction of the Prosecutor’s budget, so they have far less to work with. But that aside, it is a very unbalanced system, and as a result, a great many people suffer. So much for playing on a level playing field, right?


According to the article, the Lansing State Journal reviews more than 3,500 invoices from court appointed attorneys in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties. The results were frightening. Court appointed attorneys, it seems, do very very little for their assigned clients. Less than 2% of impoverished people who chose a court appointed attorney actually went to trial. That means that they accepted a plea bargain, which is pretty much the same thing as just admitting that you’re guilty of something and agreeing to be sentenced.


Records also revealed that in many cases, the court appointed defense attorney would initiate plea bargain negotiations before they had ever even met their clients. Most of them meet their clients on the day that they first appear in court together, which means that they know little about the case, or the person accused of the crime, beyond what the police and the prosecutor have to say about that person.


The Lansing State Journal interviewed a number of these court appointed attorneys to talk to them about these troublesome problems. One of the problems they talked about how few of the court-appointed defense attorneys actually provided their clients with a real defense against the charges. With the probable cause / preliminary hearing waived three out of four times, and expert witnesses and private investigators hired in only 2% of cases, it doesn’t seem as if these clients are getting well defended. The reason? According to the attorneys who spoke with the investigative journalist, they said they rarely ask for fees for expert witnesses because they know they’ll be denied.


One of the people interviewed by the Lansing State Journal for this story was Eve Primus, a law professor at the University of Michigan. Primus pointed out that DNA exonerations are widely known throughout the U.S. But what about all of those cases where there is no DNA that could be used to exonerate an innocent person, she asks.


Another point she makes is that the typical DNA exoneration comes in rather high-profile cases where both the prosecution and the defense have put in a significant amount of time and effort to “get it right.” So if we’re getting it wrong in the really serious cases, Primus says, we’re probably also getting it wrong in the more minor cases where not nearly as many eyes have been looking at the problem.


This is painfully true. We cannot begin to tell you how much time and effort and hard work and skill goes into a well crafted defense. We can only imagine how terrible this must be for someone accused of a crime, especially when that accusation is false, to have a defender who is utterly uninvested in their personal defense. Which, given the incredible bias that defendants face in today’s criminal justice system, needs to be considerable.


We don’t want to sound like we’re trash talking the Michigan court appointed attorneys, because we’re not. We understand that they are swamped with clients and are poorly paid; their fees couldn’t support a family of four. But never the less, we know for a fact that if you have been accused of a crime and you think that you cannot afford to hire an attorney, what you really cannot afford is to not hire your own attorney.


All this does is serve to support what we have always said about the cost of an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney. It’s expensive, we understand that. After all – there is a lot of work and experience and expertise that goes into criminal defense. But on the one hand the cost can be counted in dollars, on the other hand the price paid is with life. Your life.


If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, we urge you not to rely on the court appointed lawyers or the public defender’s office for a solution to your problem. Call us instead. The criminal defense team at The Kronzek Firm has built up lasting relationships with a wide variety of experts. We have decades of experience all over the lower peninsula of Michigan. Regardless of what accusations have been made against you, we work to strategically and aggressively defend against those charges.


We have decades of experience defending people accused of all types of crimes in Michigan, and our team brings a wide variety of skills and knowledge to the table. If you have been accused of a crime, you are going to need an aggressively constructed criminal defense which is tailored to fit your specific circumstances. Not a five minute meeting before your next court appearance, where you are encouraged to just plead guilty and get it over with.


Our criminal defense team can be reached 24/7 at 1 866-766-5245. You can read more at:


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