Public Defender for DUI Cases
When you are arrested, the police usually read you your “Miranda Rights.” This includes notifying you that if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you. However, that doesn't necessarily mean you can get a free lawyer to handle your DUI case. Even when you can, there are a number of things you should consider before deciding to let a public defender decide your fate in court.
Eligibility for a Public Defender
Most people are not eligible to have a public defender assigned to their DUI case. You can only get a public defender if you cannot afford a lawyer. That does not mean that you can get a public defender if you think hiring a lawyer will be too expensive. It only applies to people who are considered indigent, under Federal poverty guidelines.
If you claim that you cannot afford an attorney, you will have to fill out an affidavit with questions about your education, employer, your income, family, bank accounts, vehicles you own, and other property you have. You may be required to bring proof of this information. There is also a $50 application for a public defender, which is non-refundable. If the court approves your indigency, you may be appointed a lawyer.
Differences Between a Public Defender and an Atlanta DUI Lawyer
Public defenders are attorneys who are licensed to practice law by the state in which they practice. They may be very good lawyers, but they usually don't exclusively handle DUI cases. They may be responsible for defending clients for all kinds of criminal charges including shoplifting, burglary, arson, vandalism, or motor vehicle theft--all crimes which have very little in common with DUIs.
On the other hand, an Atlanta DUI lawyer who has built their professional career on defending clients charged with driving under the influence in the State of Georgia will be up to date on all the latest legal decisions, alcohol and drug detection training and technology, and be familiar with the police, judges and prosecutors involved in your specific case.
Public defenders often have a heavy caseload, where they are responsible for handling hundreds of cases at any given time. They may be showing up to court multiple times per day as new clients are assigned to them. This may make it more difficult for you to contact them at any time of the day or night with questions you may have about your case. However, an Atlanta DUI lawyer who gives you their personal email and phone number will be available anytime you have a concern.
During the arraignment for your DUI, which is generally the first time you'll appear in court, the judge will ask you about your attorney. If you ask for a public defender, that will have to come after you are approved as being financially indigent. However, if you call your DUI lawyer, they will be able to show up at the arraignment, to make sure you never have to be confronted by the judge or prosecutors alone. The criminal court process can be confusing for most people, and a DUI lawyer who can explain it to you and make sure you know what is going on can go a long way to making you feel that you are in good hands.
One of the biggest differences between a public defender and DUI lawyer is that a public defender can't save your driver's license in the Administrative License Suspension hearing. The ALS hearing is not part of the criminal court process, so your public defender is not responsible for making sure you can keep your license.
On top of that, you only have 30 days after your DUI arrest to request an ALS hearing, otherwise you'll lose the opportunity to fight to keep your license from getting suspended. A public defender cannot represent you for the administrative part of your DUI, only the criminal court.
DUI Legal Defense
A DUI conviction can result in some very serious penalties, so make your decision based on what is best for you. If you are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Atlanta, the knowledge and courtroom experience of a qualified Atlanta DUI lawyer can defend your rights in court, and fight to keep your license. Remember, just because the police arrested you does not have to mean you will be convicted. Call me anytime day or night, and I will fight for you to keep your license to drive.