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Can I hire a criminal lawyer for a family member and have the lawyer follow my instructions or just review the DA's agreement?

Tulsa, OK |
Filed under: Criminal defense

I asked question about an ADA who wasn’t returning calls about an agreement offered to my mom in leu of charges for animal neglect. ADA verbally indicated the terms of the agreement would be mom never owns animals again. ADA finally called back to say she'll set up an apptment. Not owning animals is in mom's best interest. It’s not what she wants but is willing to prevent serving jail time. I don't want a lawyer to suggest fighting charges to my mother. She would go for it. The lawyers I emailed want a consultation with her. If I'm paying, I know she'd try to have the lawyer help her get the animals back regardless of cost to me. Living half way across the country, I can't go with her to tell the lawyer the actual facts. How do I get a lawyer to just facilitate and/or review the agreement

I also don't want to pay a lawyer's hourly rates just to listen to my mom's sob stories and conspiracy theories. She can go on for hours deflecting questions. Given the facts presented by the DA at the hearing for the bond to reclaim the seized animals, my personal opinion is that the charges are justified, and she would be found guilty. But even if she was found not guilty, my opinion is that she can't afford the animals. She can't even afford a proper place to live because she spends over half of her extremely low income on the animals and refuses to accept the situation change that caused that several years ago. Updated: Is there a way to have her declared mentally incompetent or something in order have the say in what the lawyer does? She does not prioritize basic necessities like food water and shelter above non-necessities like owning the animals .

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

No lawyer can ethically represent your mother and withhold disclosure to her of HER legal options in favor of the options that suit YOU, even if you are paying. That dog won't hunt.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. FOR EDUCATION AND INFORMATION ONLY. DO NOT RELY ON ANY ADVICE YOU RECEIVE FROM ME OR ANY OTHER ATTORNEY IN THIS FORUM. Legal advice comes after a complete review of the facts and relevant documents and an expressed (written) agreement of representation that forms attorney-client confidentiality. Neither of these two events can occur in this forum. Mr. Rafter is licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the US Federal Courts in Virginia. His answers to any Avvo question are rooted in general legal principles--NOT your specific state laws. There is no implied or actual attorney-client relationship arising from this education exchange. You should speak with an attorney licensed in your state, to whom you have provided all the facts before you take steps that may impact your legal rights. Mr. Rafter is under no obligation to answer subsequent emails or phone calls related to this or any other matter.

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8 comments

Asker

Posted

No need to use all caps on words. It's shouting, and implies some sort of anger/judgement. The option she has been given is the best suited to her. She just has poor judgement and is delusional enough to think she could win at trial if a shady lawyer told her that in order to try to get more money. So I can't pay a lawyer to just review the document and explain the terms? In that case, she'll just have to take the DA's word, because I'm not paying someone who might take advantage of my mom's mental issues and convince her to do something against her own interest by going to court in favor of their own interest in money. Is there a way to have someone declared mentally incompetent in this case to have the lawyer do what is best for her rather than what she wants?

Rixon Charles Rafter III

Rixon Charles Rafter III

Posted

The all caps are to underscore keywords-' no way to 'bold' or 'underline' in this forum. Consider those words as spoken with greater emphasis than the others. If to you that means shouting, then so be it.

Asker

Posted

That means shouting to the entire internet. You can emphasize words using *asterisks*.

Rixon Charles Rafter III

Rixon Charles Rafter III

Posted

Consider them shouted then.

Asker

Posted

Ok. Just trying to help you look professional in your digital communications. Your choice whether you want to or not.

Rixon Charles Rafter III

Rixon Charles Rafter III

Posted

Like i said, consider them shouted.

Asker

Posted

Like I said, trying to help you seem professional. Your choice. Have a good day, sir.

Rixon Charles Rafter III

Rixon Charles Rafter III

Posted

Buh-bye now.

Posted

No lawyer can ethically do what you are asking, so don't waste your money.

The information provided in this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not considered to be legal advice.

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11 comments

Asker

Posted

Why can't a lawyer ethically review a document and explain its terms to me without discussing the whole case with my mother?

Kevin H. Pate

Kevin H. Pate

Posted

You can engage an attorney to review a document and give his or her opinion to you as to what that document does or does not say, and its probable impact on a person if it is signed voluntarily, of the signor's own free will. You can not hire an attorney for your mother's case and expect to dictate what that counsel will or will not do for the client, in your example your mother. If you mother is not competent, that is a different scenario, wherein the state can not proceed against her if she is not competent to assist in her own defense. She will need counsel to assert that defense if it is indeed applicable. When I am hired to help someone's relative, the relative is the client, not the person who paid the retainer for the benefit of the client. If the payor is not good with that, he or she can look elsewhere for counsel instead of retaining my services. The person paying does not have his or her liberty at stake, and while they may provide the funds, those funds are provided to represent a client to the best of my ability, not to make sure what happens to another is in accord with the wishes of a payor.

Asker

Posted

Thanks for the detailed answer, Kevin. Much appreciated. That's how I thought it would work. But I was thrown off by the attorneys I contacted wanting to discuss the case with my mother when I asked about reviewing the document. I wasn't sure if there were reasons why I couldn't hire them to review it for me instead of hiring them to represent my mom. Maybe I didn't phrase it well enough. I'll use the language in your first paragraph to explain what I need. Or maybe I'm talking to the wrong type of attorney. I've contacted criminal defense attorneys. I assumed they would have the best expertise for that. Should I be contacting criminal defense attorneys or is there another speciality in document review? I see you're in OK. Is the document review something you would be able to do? I would actually prefer an attorney go with her when she meets with the DA to keep her quiet, but I figured, and these answers confirm, that if I hired one for that, they would have to consult with her and she'd call the shots. (Which would be fine if I knew for sure I'd get a good attorney, because knowing the facts of the case, I'm nearly certain a good attorney would not recommend taking it to trail when that can be avoided. But if the attorney was shady and took advantage of her incredibly poor judgement, she could end up in debt and possibly prison.) Wanted to check if there was a way to have the attorney represent her and not have that risk that they'd use her irrational want of the animals to work against what's best for her and convince her to take it to trial. Being so far away, I can't be with her to make sure she doesn't get taken advantage of.

Kevin H. Pate

Kevin H. Pate

Posted

Please do not presume an attorney who represents the client's wishes is shady. That's simply incorrect, and in a major way. The decision to waive a trial on a charge, or in an instance like you reference, to avoid charges by voluntarily forfeiting the right to own animals in the future, will always rest with the client. An attorney can evaluate, can recommend, and even strongly urge a client not to risk the exposure of a trial if the evidence does appear to exist at a level that will permit the state to secure a conviction. However, a client may desire to face that risk after being properly advised. If so, the client has the right to make a decision adverse to what the attorney believes to be the best course of action for the client. That's not shady in the least, unless of course the attorney just rolled over at that point and gave only lip service to proper representation from that point forward. And sadly, there are walking, talking violations of the sixth amendment out there. However, an attorney can aggressively represent a client and put the state's case to a full test and be quite ethical in doing exactly that. Every defendant is entitled to require the state to actually meet their burden of proof on a charge, even if the evidence is significant. Again, you can not hire an attorney to muzzle your relative and compel her to go a route you feel is best for her. It is not a matter of some attorney pushing her to a trial. It is a matter of that decision is hers alone, not counsel's decision and not a relative's decision, to waive a trial or to demand one. Finally, the person who absolutely needs to understand what a document from the DA does and does not do is the defendant, or prospective defendant. When the rubber hits the road, it's rather irrelevant if a relative understands the document or not, unless the prospective signor is wanting the opinion of the relative. As for finding someone to assist your relative, I would encourage you to seek someone closer to her community. While I accept cases in several areas in the state, I find it difficult to imagine she can not secure counsel who is closer.

Asker

Posted

I think you misunderstood what I meant by a shady lawyer. I wasn’t suggesting that any lawyer who follows a client’s wishes is shady. Just that given the specifics of this particular case, any lawyer who would recommend going to trail would have to be shady. A shady lawyer could use my mom’s desire to have her animals and gullibility to convince her to go against her best interests. If given the recommendation that going to trial was a good option, my mother would probably take that chance. And she would end up in jail or prison. If I could tell you the specifics, it would be pretty obvious that a competent and ethical lawyer wouldn’t recommend going to trial. Of course there are competent and ethical lawyers. But unfortunately, not all lawyers are. Just picking a lawyer and leaving my mom in some random person’s hands without being able to even know what they’re telling her is risking her freedom. I’m not going to do that when there’s a simple option already on the table that she’s agreed to that will keep her out of prison. My mom can’t afford to hire a lawyer to review the document for her. She also wouldn’t know the questions she needs to ask. My siblings and I will also be the ones who make sure she follows the terms of the agreement so it’s important that we know what those terms are and someone talks to the lawyer who can ask the questions that need asking. I understand what you’re saying, and I’m sure it applies to most people. But not in this situation. Please understand that my reluctance to hire an attorney is not to muzzle her or compel her to do what my siblings and I want. It’s to protect her from a lawyer that would take advantage of her mental illness and mislead her about her chances of winning at trial. I know there are plenty of lawyers who would not do that, but I have no guarantee that the one I’d pick would be one of those. All I want is to have the agreement reviewed in order to make sure that mom will be agreeing to what she thinks she’s agreeing to and the DA has not misrepresented the terms. Thanks again for your thoughtful and detailed responses. I have contacted all of the lawyers that I found that said they handled criminal defense in her area. There were not many. I only received 2 responses and they weren’t encouraging. I guess I’ll go back to those 2 that replied.

Valerie Semmes Bouffiou

Valerie Semmes Bouffiou

Posted

If your mother cannot afford an attorney, she could ask the court to appoint one. Just understand what every attorney here is trying to convey. If trial is a poor choice for a client, we will tell them so. If giving up the right to own animals is a good decision, we will advocate for it. If a client wants us to do the opposite of what we recommend, we have to. The client makes those decisions, not the attorney.

Asker

Posted

For an attorney to be appointed, don't charges have to have already been filed? The agreement is to prevent charges from being filed.

Valerie Semmes Bouffiou

Valerie Semmes Bouffiou

Posted

Not always. If she were entering a diversion program often a public defender can be provided, but I don't know enough about this situation.

Asker

Posted

The ADA didn't call it a diversion program. I don't know if that's what it is. If a public defender is an option, does the DA's office have to offer it? If not, how do you find out if a public defender is an option? I would feel more confident with a public defender being legit and not misleading her than a random lawyer I found in search results for the area.

Valerie Semmes Bouffiou

Valerie Semmes Bouffiou

Posted

You can call the prosecutor's office and ask. Have you thought about you or one of your siblings going to the meeting with her? It could be less expensive than hiring an attorney and then you would fully understand the terms of the agreement.

Asker

Posted

Unfortunately, the DA's office I've been dealing with hasn't been very helpful in getting back to me and answering questions. I'll try to find out from them about the public defender. The only sibling that lives near her is sadly as clueless as she is. And it would cost me just as much or more to go there than hire a lawyer. None of us are experts in criminal law, so we wouldn't know for sure all the repercussions of the agreement. I'd rather pay a lawyer now than have her get arrested later because we misunderstood the terms. But without being there to vet the lawyer and make sure my mom accurately represents the facts during the consultation, hiring someone as her counsel would probably go badly. Not only is there risk of accidentally finding a shady attorney, even if I found a good attorney, my mom would probably leave out all of the important details during the consultation. And the attorney might think there was a possibility of succeeding at trial -- until they got the details from the DA. If the attorney even suggested that they would simply look into the possibility that she could not go to jail and still be able to own animals, she'd probably take that as confirmation that she could. And then once the attorney got all the information and recommended the agreement as the best option, she would already be convinced against it. Eventually she would see reality, but by then we'd be out of time before the DA pressed charges. Then she'd be calling one of us crying and begging us to fix it for her, and there would be nothing we could do. I want to avoid that. She prefers not to own animals over going to jail and is ok with the terms as the ADA verbally explained them. I'm willing to pay someone to make sure the terms she thinks she's agreeing to are what they are. But because of her mental illness and poor judgement, it's too risky having her talk to a lawyer by herself. So I think it's best to find someone who will just review the document and answer questions about it. I'm going to try contacting OK attorneys in the nearest larger city instead of her local area and just ask them for a quote for document review without complicating the question with details about who the document is for or why it's needed. That might get better responses. Since I can't hire an attorney for her without her consulting with the attorney, I've asked my sister who lives there if her husband can go with my mom when she sees the DA just to keep her from saying stupid things. He actually has his head on somewhat straight. But my sister doesn't really think it's serious enough for him to take a couple hours off work. I offered to pay for his his time off, but didn't get an affirmative response. If not, the best I can do is speaker phone.

Posted

I agree, no lawyer should ethically go along with this.

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Asker

Posted

Could you briefly say why it's not ethical for a lawyer to read the agreement document and tell me what the terms are without my mom being involved? I used to pay for a legal service where one of services they did was to read documents and explain the contents in lay terms. Why isn't that an option here?

Posted

I think you can pay a lawyer not to represent your mother but to explain to you the conditions of the agreement your mother is being offered. If that is what you need done.

If you hire a lawyer to represent your mother I agree , in part with some of the other answers. The lawyer would represent your mother not you, even though you were paying.

This is not that uncommon of a situation in criminal representation. You frequently experience the situation when you are representing a young client and are hired by the parents. Many times I am confronted with the dilemma of "doing what is truly in my client's best interest" vs. "doing what my client wants to do". Ultimately my client has the right to make the choice. But, that does not mean I can not work with the person that paid for my services and try to persuade my client to do what is in their best interest.

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Posted

You can hire an attorney to just review the agreement and let you know what it says, what its implications are, etc.
But if you want to pay an attorney to make your mother take the deal, then no ethical lawyer will do that. An attorney who represents your mother will advise her but is ultimately bound by her decision. No ethical lawyer will represent her without talking to her.
If you don't feel comfortable paying for her lawyer and she cannot afford one, she can contact local legal clinics to assist her.

This information is for general information purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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