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Why was i denied a state appointed attorney?

Columbus, GA |

I was arrested for a first time d.u.i.i was cooperative with the officer. i have no previous driving or alcohol related offenses. the judge asked if i needed state appointed counsel. i said yes. he asked how much i made. i told him $250 a week, he said i didn't qualify. i was sentenced to 280 days in jail with no 2 for 1. is this really legal?

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Attorney answers 6


That's a harsh sentence and you should have hired you own lawyer if you were not eligible for the public defender.


You should contact a DUI lawyer to find if there is anyway to appeal or rehear your case. With that sentence, you will miss about 200 days of work, about $10,000 in income at minimum wage. You might want to rethink if you can afford not to hire an attorney.

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I agree with the other lawyers who have answered here. The court may have been able to reject your request for a lawyer, but that is a very high sentence for a first lifetime DUI. You should hire a lawyer to attempt to withdraw your plea and renegotiate.


If you make $250/week but live somewhere rent-free (or in public housing) and have few if any expenses, then yes, you should be able to hire your own lawyer.

Public defenders are for people who CAN'T afford private attorneys, so if you CAN afford a private attorney, the court system expects to do so. No one who is ABLE to afford a private attorney is supposed to get a taxpayer-funded public defender. The system is abused, meaning the public defenders are overworked by people they shouldn't have to represent.

It is ALWAYS better to have an attorney of your choosing, paid by you, than to take whatever attorney the government assigns you. You don't want to be just another charity case clogging up a public defender's desk.

People try to squeak through the system as cheaply as possible, but if a private attorney is able to resolve a criminal case shorter than a public defender, what is that worth? How much money could you have earned in those 10 months you spent in jail? $10,000. You could have paid a private attorney about half that amount and you'd be $5000 better off and would not have spent nearly a year locked up in a cage.

The time to hire an attorney was BEFORE you went to court, not after you went to court and lost.

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Whether you are asking if the denial was legal or the sentence is legal, the answer to both is "yes". The judge can sentence someone for up to one year for a single DUI charge. 280 days is very harsh, and it seems to me some extenuating circumstances were involved. Perhaps you took it to trial and got on the stand. Some judges will hammer you if you do that and get convicted.


That is a very harsh sentence for a first lifetime DUI. However, the judge can sentence you up to 12 months in jail on a DUI offense whether it's a first offense or not. Also, if you do not meet the federal poverty guidelines you do not qualify for a free attorney. Several factors are considered in determining your eligibility including whether you own property (an automatic disqualifier), if you have any children, receive any other types of benefits or payments, etc.

James L. Yeargan, Jr. is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. All information given is based only on Georgia law, and is not directly applicable to any other jurisdictions, states, or districts. This response, or any response, is not legal advice. This response, or any response, does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information. Any state specific concerns should be directed to an attorney who is licensed to practice law in that respective state.