The Koger Building
Corner of 9th Street North & Gandy Blvd.
9721 Executive Center Drive North, Suite 120
St. Petersburg, FL 33702
Hiring a St. Petersburg / Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer
Because of the negative image popularized in the movies and on television, the public defender is often portrayed as an inadequate and ineffective legal counsel. Such a characterization as a “second class attorney” or “lawyer of last resort” is clearly unwarranted.
The truth is that most public defenders are dedicated lawyers who genuinely care about their clients. Despite the fact that public defenders have received a bad rap in the entertainment media, the Public Defender’s Office must deal with several limitations that experienced private criminal defense firms typically do not have to contend with. For example:
1.) Public defenders typically carry an enormous case load and can therefore only dedicate so much time to each client. Consequently, our clients often complain to us that they lacked significant contact with their appointed counsel outside of court appearances.
2.) The Florida Supreme Court has openly acknowledged that the public defenders system in Florida is chronically under-funded.
3.) By law, public defenders can only represent you in your criminal case. They are prohibited from helping you with related civil or administrative matters such as a driver license suspension hearing.
4.) In most situations, you are required to work with the particular public defender who has been appointed to your case. With a private attorney, you have the ability to interview several attorneys and choose the paid lawyer that you feel most comfortable with.
The question is often asked, is a “Private attorney better than Public Defender?” The New York Times recently published a revealing study that found that the average sentence for clients of public defenders was almost three years longer than the sentences of clients represented by private lawyers. The consequences of a guilty plea or a formal conviction can be severe. The criminal justice system only affords one chance at achieving your desired result. By hiring an experienced private St. Petersburg / Clearwater criminal defense attorney you can benefit from several advantages:
Some Additional Points to Consider Regarding Representation by a Public Defender
Not just anyone is entitled to the appointment of a public defender. In fact, the Public Defender’s Office can only represent someone when two conditions are satisfied.
1.) The person is facing jail or prison as a possible sentence in a criminal traffic, misdemeanor, or felony case; and
2.) The judge must find that the defendant is “indigent,” under Florida Statute ss. 27.52 or financially unable to afford a private attorney.
Not all applicants qualify for a public defender. Those people found to be indigent (and entitled to appointed counsel) soon realize that the services of a public defender are not free. If you plead guilty, no contest, or are later convicted after trial, the court will often order you to pay attorney fees as part of your sentence. This practice is employed to reimburse the public for the services of your appointed counsel.
If you attempt to seek the appointment of a public defender, you must first submit an application to the clerk of the court demonstrating your inability to pay for a private attorney. The application includes details of your financial situation including income, assets, liabilities, the amount of bail posted, and other pertinent information. Additionally, all applicants must pay a non-refundable $50.00 application fee. Click here to view the Pinellas County Application for Criminal Indigent Status.
After filing your application, the clerk of the court will review your information to determine whether you are indigent and therefore qualify for the aid of a public defender. An applicant is considered indigent if his income is equal to or below 200 percent of the poverty guidelines or if he is receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families-Cash Assistance, poverty-related veteran’s benefits, or Supplemental Security Income. However, if you own or have equity in any intangible or tangible personal or real property having a net equity value greater than or equal to $2,500, you do not qualify to have a public defender appointed.