Trial is a month away and I was told during the preliminary that a plea agreement was reached. This plea doesn't come close to the truth and it's certainly not fair. I wasn't present when they came up with it. I told him I'd rather go to trial, and so far I made two appointments to see him, and he couldn't keep either.. I reschedule the one but I am seriously getting worried since there's been a few red flags telling me that this man does not have my interest at heart. I'm running out of time and I need to know if I can hire someone else and if so, how do I go about it?
Criminal Defense Attorney
You are free to be represented by counsel of your choice. Having made one choice and now having second thoughts, you are certainly permitted to get substitute counsel. One word of caution. Make the change, if you are going to, as soon as you can possibly identify an appropriate substitute. Courts are very accommodating of such things unless it happens on the eve of trial. You might first address, if you can get the opportunity, to discuss honestly with current counsel your concerns. If such a meeting occurs and you remain unsatisfied, then tell him you intend to interview possible replacements.
Mr. Jones's advice is correct, you have a right to change attorneys, but should do it soon and have a heart-to-heart "debriefing" with attorney #1.
Couple additional thoughts: it it almost universal for the defendant NOT to be present at the conferences in chambers where the DA, Judge and your attorney discuss possible plea bargains, so this is not a ground of complaint or suspicion.
Second thought: ask your lawyer why HE thinks the plea bargain is fair. This is a comparison of the conviction of the charges you would agree to and the sentence to the MAXIMUM charges and sentence you could POSSIBLY be charged with, considering your PRIORS, if any, and whether you would be a good witness or could testify at a trial (convictions and prior bad acts -- things you may have been charged with but not been convicted of, juvenile charges, etc.) could be used to impugn your credibility.
As to "truth", consider that (1) most juries will think you did it if you were arrested and charged for the crime unless you have a very compelling defense, and (2) what other defenses or alibis you could raise (a bad search leading to evidence that could be suppressed, evidence establishing that you were not at the crime scene, good witnesses to testify on your behalf on these things).
The "truth" doesn't matter at a criminal trial, it's usually circumstantial evidence and perceptions of jurors. In other words, the plea bargain offered may be better than you think or what is likely to happen at a trial. Speak candidly to you lawyer about this, or you may find yourself faced with the same dilemma with the next lawyer too.
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Criminal Defense Attorney
You can always hire a new attorney, if you are not happy with your representation. A client has that right. Your new attorney should be able to push the trial date out, so that he can get more familiar with the case. Good Luck!
Michael Kotik, Esq.
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Philadelphia, PA 19102
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