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We hear that people can't pay bound are waiting in jail for over a year to get a public defense lawyer. Is that truth?

Austin, TX |

My son was arrested for 1st offense aggravated assault with serious bodily injury. We can't pay bond or lawyer. He says that some inmates has been there over a year trying to get a public defense lawyer and nothing is moving.

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Attorney answers 5


I don't know what the situation is in Texas. In Illinois a defendant unable to make bond might have to spend a year or more in jail awaiting trial on a serious case, but that would not be waiting for a lawyer to be appointed. The public defender would be appointed immediately (assuming that the defendant is also unable to retain counsel). But discovery, investigation, pre-trial motions and other preliminary matters might take a very long time and a defendant unable to make bail would spend that time in jail. Things might be different in Texas.


Assuming the Court has rendered him indigent, he should have been appointed an attorney by now. I would find a way to retain an attorney, no matter what it takes.

Law Office of David D. White, PLLC
1205 Rio Grande St.
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 369-3737


That is not true. He should not take legal advice from other inmates. A person in custody is appointed an attorney almost immediately (as in, within a few days). It can take several months for a felony to be indicted, receive a first setting, and have an acceptable plea bargain worked out by the defense attorney. If the case is set for trial, it could definitely be pending for well over a year.

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If someone is incarcerated for an unreasonable amount of time without reasonable bail and legal representation, that violates the 8th amendment of the US Constitution as well as other rights including the 5th, 6th and 14th amendments. In addition these denials violate state constutions and statutes as well. A person should file with the court a petition for Habeaus Corpus immediately, which is a legal formal request to be released with reasonable bail and to obtain legal representation if without funds to hire a lawyer.


I assume that you are asking about the Travis County system for appointing criminal defense lawyers to indigent defendants. Lawyers are appointed almost immediately after arrest in Travis County. The attorney is notified by Court Administration and is required to make contact with their client within 24 hours. If your son has not had any contact with his court-appointed lawyer, you may want to call Court Administration at 512-854-9244.

Jail cases usually move along faster than non-jail cases. The wait to go to trial however can be lengthy. If your son can get out of jail, either with a bondsman or on a personal bond, he will not have to wait in jail to resolve his case. There may be some affordable alternatives that you can discuss with an attorney.
David Frank

You should consult with an attorney. The information provided applies generally and is not intended as legal advice on any particular case.

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