Going with a court-appointed defense lawyer is usually a mistake, but it’s not terrible. Tales of overworked court-appointed lawyers occasionally appear in media stories. This overwork is more common in the post-coronavirus era. More than two years after lockdowns ended in New York, the criminal justice system still struggles with case backlog.
However, it’s important to remember that the attorneys featured in these articles are poster boys (or poster girls) for a point the author wants to make about criminal justice, equality, or another broad topic. Additionally, overworked lawyers are typically good lawyers. It’s usually the underworked lawyers that criminal defendants should avoid. There’s generally a reason an attorney has few clients, and it’s usually not a good reason.
The choice is the biggest reason to partner with a Rochester criminal defense lawyer instead of a court-appointed defense lawyer. Defendants who work with private lawyers decide which lawyer to use. Furthermore, if things don’t work out, defendants usually have a right to fire their lawyers, even if the case is about to go to trial. In contrast, judges or bureaucrats randomly assign court-appointed lawyers to defendants. It’s impossible to “fire” this lawyer and get another one, at least in most cases, regardless of the circumstances.
Direct and Indirect Consequences
This random assignment means a court-appointed lawyer might have several decades of experience or several weeks of experience. Inexperienced lawyers often aren’t fully aware of the indirect consequences of a criminal conviction. As a result, the defendant might be blindsided by a punishment s/he had no idea might be coming.
Immigration consequences are a good example. Assume Raul is charged with aggravated assault in Rochester, NY. His court-appointed lawyer reduces the charges to misdemeanor assault, Raul pleads guilty, and the judge gives him deferred disposition probation.
Regarding direct consequences, Raul’s court-appointed lawyer did a great job. Raul doesn’t have a felony conviction on his record. In fact, if he successfully completed deferred disposition probation, he won’t have a misdemeanor conviction on his record either.
But as for indirect consequences, Raul’s court-appointed lawyer did a terrible job. Under current law, assault is a crime of moral turpitude (CMT). The dictionary definition of a CMT is an offense that involves fraud, violence, dishonesty, or misrepresentation. That vague definition could apply to almost all criminal offenses.
In this context, a CMT is basically anything the Department of State says it is. The State Department’s CMT list changes frequently. But assault is almost always on the list. Additionally, for immigration purposes, Raul has an assault conviction on his record. Deferred disposition is generally a conviction.
These rules are very complex. The petty offense exception generally, but does not always, apply to CMTs. A “petty offense” is basically a misdemeanor. Furthermore, if a Rochester criminal defense lawyer successfully argues that the judge gave the defendant deferred because of a lack of evidence or a procedural flaw, the matter might not be a conviction for immigration purposes.
Lawyers often don’t know all these details because they aren’t legally required to inform defendants about collateral consequences. As far as many Rochester criminal defense lawyers are concerned, their jobs end when the judge’s gavel falls.
How to Hire a Rochester Criminal Defense Lawyer
In the 1970s game show Let’s Make a Deal, contestants often chose between a mystery prize, which could be something valuable or something worthless, and an actual prize. If you are accused of a crime, would you rather take your chances with a mystery prize or partner with an attorney with:
- Experience: Law school professors don’t teach courses about the collateral effects of criminal convictions. Only experienced lawyers are fully aware of these adverse effects.
- Accessibility: In all our years of criminal law, we’ve never met a court-appointed lawyer who makes house calls or changes his/her schedule to fit a defendant’s schedule. Private lawyers often make such accommodations.
- Dedication: Many attorneys take a few appointed cases to see if they’d like to do criminal law or to tide them over until something better comes along. That’s not the kind of advocate you want.
Only the right lawyer reduces or eliminates the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction in Monroe County.
There’s a big difference between a criminal arrest and a criminal conviction. Contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi for a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal attorney. Convenient payment plans are available.