Written by attorney John M. Kaman

Pro Bono Criminal Lawyers

One of the most persistent questions I see on Avvo is a request for a pro bono lawyer. This guide will hopefully clear upsome misconceptions about such lawyers.

Do they exist? Yes they do and they are called public defenders. They don't work for free, however, as generally their salary is paid for by the county. If you are truly indigent their services are free to you. If you are on the borderline you may be ordered when your trial is over to pay for their services. Usually the charge imposed is much smaller than for a private lawyer.

But you don't like or trust your public defender so what do you do. You can make a Marsden motion where the judge will hear your complaints and if they are well founded replace the public defender with a private defender who is also paid by the county. In most cases you still pay nothing.

Many people think their case is so important they are entitled to free private legal representation. But your idea of an important case is probably not the idea held by the private bar. 2nd degree burglary or robbery, any drug case, petty or grand theft: these cases are just not interesting enough for anybody to do them for free.

There are organizations that will help you for free if there is something truly unique about your case and it is serious enough to merit attention. These cases are in general death penalty cases. Unless you are facing the death penalty you are not going to interest the private bar in the spat you had with your neighbors.

Some lawyers will take on a muder case for free just to make their reputations. There is nothing wrong with this but beware. The lawyer may be less motivated by your case than he is by making a name for himself.

In short very little comes free. Lawyers work for a living. If they are not being paid by the county they are probably not going to step up for your case.

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