If you find yourself in trouble with law enforcement, there are a lot of complicated issues that you have to work through. For many people, the first question is how they will find a lawyer and how they will pay for it. At first, many people assume that they can’t possibly afford a lawyer, and turn to free legal help. There are a number of things that someone should consider, however, before choosing this method to find a criminal lawyer.
To start, it is important to understand that there are different types of free lawyer advice. Some supposedly free lawyers are provided by non-profit organizations, others are provided by the government, and a third type is provided by lawyers who are working for profit. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of advice.
In many areas, there are non-profit organizations that offer free legal representation. In nearly all of these cases, however, defendants or clients have to agree to certain terms and meet pre-set criteria in order to apply for help. While this criteria can vary widely, it is usually a requirement that clients pass some sort of means or income check. In other words, most non-profits will only help people who do not have enough income to afford a lawyer on their own. In many areas, these organizations have extremely low income limits for people who need criminal representation. Keep in mind that these groups usually operate entirely on donations, and have very little in the way of funds.
Furthermore, it can be very difficult to get a non-profit organization to take an interest in a criminal case. While there are well-funded non-profits that fight for a variety of social issues, groups that serve those accused of crimes are very few and not well funded. Also, being reliant on donor money makes them very hesitant to take on a case involving violence and/or those in which there is strong negative public opinion. This means they have to be be picky about which cases they take on. Even if a person has a low enough income to qualify and a case that these groups believe they can help with, it can still takes weeks or months to access a lawyer.
By law, a court has to appoint an attorney to someone who is unable to afford one. These lawyers are often pro-bono, meaning that they donate their time. Often, they are required to donate a certain number of hours per year in order to keep their license. This means that a pro-bono lawyer has a large case load, and very few resources to give to a non-paying client. In fact, several studies have shown that accused persons with pro-bono, court-appointed lawyers are more likely to serve jail time and pay higher fees than those who pay for legal services.
In some places, defense lawyers for people who cannot pay work full-time for the government. Representation by these lawyers tends to be a little better, but many people report that they have problems staying in contact with their attorney. Furthermore, many of these lawyers are at the will of local governments. When budget cuts loom, they are often expected to increase their caseloads.
For-Profit Free Legal Advice
Believe it or not, there are several for-profit lawyers and companies that have figured out how to make a profit (or at least, get paid) by offering “free” legal advice and services. Again, quality of advice can vary.
Legal Help Lines
One of the most common examples of this are legal help lines that offer to answer basic questions. It is very rare that these services will offer very specific advice, however, and none of them will represent you in court. While these can be a good place to start, many of them make their money by referring the caller to a lawyer who is experienced in the area of law that the caller needs help with. While the caller may end up paying for a lawyer, these lines and websites are a good way to find a lawyer that has the right kind of experience.
Many people who work for large companies or are members of a labor union have access to free legal advice. These lawyers are paid for by the company, but the services they offer can vary widely. Generally, these are great resources for people who need to navigate the property tax or need help with an adoption, but very few of these lawyers have experience with criminal matters. Furthermore, a lot of people prefer to keep their employer in the dark about any potential criminal charges.
No Upfront Cost Attorneys
While these lawyers aren’t exactly free, they can be a good way to get top-notch legal representation at an affordable price. These lawyers offer payment plans for their clients that don’t require them to pay anything right away. By making payments, hiring a lawyer becomes affordable.
Free legal advice services can seem like a good deal at first glance, but nearly everyone facing criminal charges will be better off by figuring out a way to pay for their own legal representation. Fortunately, there are many ways to finance legal fees.