By Hampton & Pigott
Posted on 1-18-2021
Everyone has the Constitutional right to an attorney when charged with a criminal offense. The Sixth Amendment provides this protection to any defendant in danger of potential imprisonment. Individuals charged with a crime typically hire an attorney at their own expense. However, those unable to afford legal counsel are entitled to have a court-appointed attorney at no cost. These attorneys for indigent or low-income defendants are known as public defenders.
The rules in the particular jurisdiction will determine the eligibility for a public defender. Generally, the following factors are considered in the appointment of free legal representation: whether an individual is employed, the amount of assets available to individuals, and the relative cost of retaining an attorney in the jurisdiction.
In sum, courts will look at the totality of circumstances to determine the level of hardship a defendant will incur if required to hire private legal counsel. Individuals may submit to the court itemization of personal debt, financial liabilities, including rent, mortgage, child support, and business overhead. Additionally, the gravity of the criminal charges, as well as the probability of the matter going to trial, may factor into the court’s determination of eligibility for the appointment of a public defender.
Sixth Amendment rights are triggered when an individual is confronted with criminal charges which may result in any length of imprisonment. A defendant’s right to a lawyer is based on the possibility of being imprisoned, regardless of the likelihood of the charge being reduced to a fine and probation. Therefore, being cited for a traffic violation or sued in civil court would generally not warrant Sixth Amendment protection. The exception to this rule may be a contempt case where the individual could be punished by the court with time in jail.
Hampton & Pigott are criminal defense attorneys in Colorado and represent defendants in a wide array of cases, including misdemeanors and serious felonies. If you find yourself in a position where you need to seek legal assistance, do not hesitate to give us a call.