Probably not. The answer provided by the out of state lawyer is incorrect and reflects a lack of knowledge of Alabama court procedure. Under Alabama law, the court is only required to appoint or assign 'court-appointed' lawyers (the state of Alabama does not have or utilize a "public defender" system and any reference to the "public defender" is not applicable to Alabama law) when the court is either required by statute to impose actual term of imprisonment or the court intends to impose incarceration based on the charge alone. In light of the fact the state now pays court-appointed lawyers $75 per hour for in-court work, most trial court judges are not likely to expend monies from the state Fair Trial Tax Fund to represent a first-offender DUI, when the statute does not require incarceration. Only in felony charges or multiple offense DUI where jail is actually imposed will the court assign counsel.
However, it is also common that many district court or municipal courts have a 'contract attorney' on call or in the court on plea day to serve the role of court-appointed attorney. Contract lawyers are inexpensive in relation to 'court-appointed' lawyers. If at the plea and arraignment, the judge asks 'How do you plead?' the trial judge may also ask, 'Do you want to discuss your plea with a court-appointed attorney?' That serves the legal process by providing representation of counsel and is legally sufficient for the court to impose a sentence.
Do not expect a court-appointed lawyer to provide effective legal counsel. That is an unrealistic expectation. If you want effective and competent legal representation, you will have to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you. For a listing of qualified criminal defense lawyers in your area, check the listings of the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Assocation at www.acdla.org.
You should recognize that even a first offense DUI is serious and if convicted will result in the loss of driver license (there is no 'temporary' or work privilege license in Alabama), the impostion of fines and court costs, and probation. It is in your best interests to find a qualified criminal defnese lawyer, and especially one who specializes in DUI defense. For a listing of criminal defense lawyers who are 'DUI specialist' check the listings of the National College for DUI Defense at: www.ncdd.com
To get a court appointed attorney in Alabama, you need to fill out a form called an Affidavit of Substantial Hardship. A judge will then review the form to determine whether or not your wife qualifies as indigent, and whether she is entitled to a court appointed attorney under the circumstances of her case. Some judges are more lenient in granting hardship affidavits than others, while some judges are very strict about who will qualify.
Your best bet is to retain an experienced DUI defense attorney to work on getting your wife the best possible outcome on the case. Don't rely on the court-appointed system unless you have no other options.
Good luck to you.
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