Do I Get a Free Rochester Criminal Defense Lawyer?
Even though the Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to an attorney, one way or another, defendants usually pay for these legal services. But are you owed a Rochester criminal defense lawyer?
In some venues, such as small claims court, self-representation is usually a good idea. But in criminal court, self-representation is typically unfavorable. Even though there is no instruction manual or warning label, defendants must know all the procedural rules and all the consequences of a conviction. That handicap is impossible to overcome, especially in cases like DWIs, which have so many procedural rules and so many direct and indirect consequences.
Your Criminal Defense Representation Options in Monroe County
With this in mind, an effective Rochester criminal defense lawyer is a must-have when you go to court. What kind of lawyer is available in these situations?
Public assistance may be an option. Monroe County has a very good public defender’s office. Additionally, many criminal judges appoint attorneys in certain cases.
Generally, these lawyers are always available if the defendant is in jail. People who are behind bars usually have no way to hire a lawyer. So, the county fulfills the Sixth Amendment’s requirement.
If the defendant is out on bond, public assistance may not be available. Many judges assume, rightly or wrongly, that if a defendant can afford bail, the defendant can also afford a lawyer. If a judge does assign a court-appointed lawyer or public defender and the court finds the defendant guilty, the judge assesses legal fees as court costs.
In other words, if you are not in jail, you have a choice. As mentioned, the public assistance attorneys in Monroe County are often just as experienced as private Rochester criminal defense lawyers. However, the myth of the overworked public defender is partially true. For example, the American Bar Association recommends that public assistance lawyers handle a maximum of one hundred and fifty felonies a year. The average public defender handles almost twice that number.
What to Look for in a Rochester Criminal Defense Lawyer
So, in most cases, a private lawyer is a better option. Some important things to look for while searching for a reputable Rochester criminal defense lawyer are:
There really is no substitute for experience. But years of practice only tells part of the story. Your attorney should also have substantial criminal trial experience. Even though most criminal cases settle out of court, the threat of a trial must be a credible one to get a good pretrial deal.
Criminal defense requires a unique touch and a special commitment. Divorce lawyers, corporate lawyers, and others do not always have what it takes. That being said, diversity is often a good thing. So, your Rochester criminal defense lawyer should probably devote at least 50 percent of his or her practice to criminal defense.
Driving across town to meet with your lawyer will get really old, really fast. So, your attorney should have an office near your home or work. Alternatively, your lawyer should be willing to meet you someplace convenient.
In this area, choosing a lawyer is a little like choosing a restaurant. If there are no cars in the parking lot, that’s a bad sign. If the hostess says you must wait an hour for a table, that’s a bad sign too. Likewise, your lawyer should be busy, but not to the point where they cannot assist you.
Note that the cost did not make the list. Most lawyers charge about the same amount for roughly the same services, depending on the lawyer’s experience. Furthermore, choosing a lawyer is a very important decision. Since your freedom and your future are at stake, you should be prepared to spend some money.
Contact an Assertive Lawyer
If you face any criminal charges, you need a good lawyer. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal defense lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. After-hours visits are available.
How Can a Rochester, NY Criminal Lawyer Help Me?
There is an old lawyer joke which says, “An attorney is someone who helps you get what’s coming to you.” In other words, a Rochester, NY criminal lawyer cannot alter the outcome of a criminal case.
Alas, many times that is true. For various reasons, many attorneys take the prosecutor’s first offer, no matter how good or bad it is.
Many people have heard of, or maybe even remember, Senator Robert F. Kennedy. After he won the 1968 California primary, President John F. Kennedy’s brother was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Police quickly arrested 24-year-old Sirhan Sirhan and charged him with the crime.
Noted attorney Grant Cooper defended Sirhan. For some reason, Cooper, who died in the 1990s, did not aggressively attack the state’s evidence against Sirhan, even though there were some holes in the case. If he had been more assertive, Sirhan may not be sitting in a California prison today serving a life sentence.
So, a diligent Rochester, NY criminal lawyer can make a significant difference, in at least three areas of your criminal case.
This first phase of a criminal case is also one of the most important ones. Unless an attorney secures pretrial release, the presumption of innocence essentially becomes a presumption of guilt. It’s extremely hard to defend cases under these conditions. Additionally, if they find out the defendant is in jail, many Monroe County jurors assume the defendant did something wrong. Finally, many incarcerated defendants agree to unfavorable plea bargains just to “get it over with.”
In serious criminal cases, such as extremely violent crimes or high-dollar fraud cases, bail is so high that the defendant cannot possibly afford it. Furthermore, to most Rochester families, two or three thousand dollars might as well be two or three million. They simply do not have that kind of cash.
In these cases, a Rochester, NY criminal lawyer usually demands a bail reduction hearing. At this hearing, the judge often reduces bail based upon factors like:
- Amount the defendant can pay,
- Severity of the offense,
- Defendant’s ability to travel, or more commonly, the defendant’s inability to travel,
- Lack of threats to witnesses or alleged victims, and
- Defendant’s contact with the community.
Often, the defense and prosecutor come to an agreement that involves some give-and-take. For example, the prosecutor might agree to OR (Own Recognizance) release if the defendant submits to electronic monitoring.
Constructing a Defense
Just like no one goes to war with an unloaded gun, no attorney defends a client without a clear vision of a defensive strategy.
Many times, a procedural defense is available. Drug cases are a good illustration. Most of these cases involve either search warrants or exceptions to the search warrant requirement. If the warrant is defective in any way, or the claimed exception does not apply, most Monroe County judges will throw the case out of court.
Substantive defenses may be available as well, and once again, drug cases are excellent examples. Officers always testify that a substance “field tested” positive for an illegal drug. But these tests don’t always hold up in court. In December 2018, Florida police charged a man with heroin possession. The heroin turned out to be Tide laundry detergent. Cases like this one are extreme, but they happen more often than people think.
Resolving the Case
It all comes down to this. About 97 percent of the time, a negotiated plea bargain resolves a criminal case. This pretrial settlement usually involves one or both of the following:
- Lesser sentence and/or
- Reduced charges.
For example, some Monroe County prosecutors reduce DUI charges to reckless driving. This offense is a serious misdemeanor, but it does not have the same collateral consequences as DUI. If your Rochester, NY criminal lawyer secured the prompt pretrial release and diligently prepared a defense, there’s a very good chance that the case could end with a favorable resolution.
Count on an Experienced Rochester NY Criminal Attorney
The right legal defense makes a big difference for you and your family. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester, NY criminal lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Home and jail visits are available.