Can I Hire a Private Attorney to Defend Me If I Currently Have a Public Defender?

Yes.  The California Supreme Court has ruled that a person charged in a criminal case has a right to choose his attorney, in one appellate court case a public defender was appointed to represent the defendant, the public defender informed the court that defendant wanted a continuance in order to hire a private lawyer with whom he had been in contact.  The request was denied with the explanation that it was too late.  Counsel did not file a motion to continue nor a substitution of attorneys with the Court.   The defendant was thereafter convicted of the offense.  The Supreme court reversed, holding defendant was diligent in his efforts to secure counsel of his own choosing and to apprise the trial court of his wishes at the earliest possible time, and that the trial court’s failure to respect the accused right to chosen counsel and to grant the requested continuance constituted an abuse of discretion which amounted to reversible error Moreover, the Justices made clear that in some instances an accused assertion of his right to retained counsel may cause some disruption in a trial court’s calendar.  However, the court realized that the frequency of such occurrences should not be overstated, for the number of indigent who become financially able to retain private counsel is relatively small.  Most importantly though, the court emphasized that previous rulings requirement that trial courts exercise “resourceful diligence” in protecting the right to chosen counsel must be respected even when a by product of a concrete and timely assertion of that right is some disruption in the process.  If you or someone who you know is presently being represented by a public defender an wants to hire a private attorney, act quickly but know that you have the right to switch lawyers if you want to.

About thetorranceattorney

Matthew Ruff is a Torrance criminal defense attorney located near the 405 freeway on Crenshaw Blvd. Focusing on DUI and serious criminal cases for over twenty five years. In addition to criminal cases, Matthew also defends clients at the DMV regarding license suspension hearings stemming from drunk driving arrests.
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