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The United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Constitutions guarantee the right to counsel in criminal cases. Everyone has heard the expression “if you cannot afford a lawyer one will be appointed for you”. The word “afford” is a relative term, treated differently among jurisdictions. In Massachusetts it is viewed liberally and if there is any doubt the court will appoint you a lawyer.Massachusetts Has an Incredibly Well Trained Public Defender’s Office
There are two types of criminal defense lawyers that represent qualifying individuals in Massachusetts. There are the full-time staff public defenders and the Bar Advocates. Full-time public defenders are just that. They exclusively defend the accused. They are paid a salary by the state. They are extremely well trained committed professionals. The Massachusetts public defender’s office handles approximately twenty percent of the state’s criminal caseload for qualifying individuals.The Massachusetts Bar Advocate System
The remaining eighty percent is handled by Bar Advocates. Bar Advocates have been approved by the state to provide representation to indigent people. Each county has a list of lawyers who are assigned duty days in various Massachusetts district and superior courts. On the duty days the Bar Advocates take appointments to represent new arrestees or people summonsed for new criminal cases. The Massachusetts Bar Advocates are either district court or superior court qualified, or both. Most counties have implemented mandatory trainings for their Bar Advocates ensuring these lawyers are up to date on cutting edge Massachusetts and federal criminal law and trends. The majority of the Massachusetts Bar Advocates have extensive private practices that involve criminal defense and other legal disciplines. In other words, not all bar advocates are exclusively criminal defense lawyers. I will say that many of the Bar Advocates are the best lawyers in the state and if you are lucky enough to get one of these lawyers to represent you would be well advised to stay with him or her.
A handful of Bar Advocates are on the Massachusetts Murder List. These lawyers are considered the most experienced criminal practitioners in Massachusetts. Well over ninety-five percent of all Massachusetts murder cases are defended by murder list attorneys, most of whom are, or were Bar Advocates or public defenders. These lawyers are among the best in the state.Hiring Your Own Criminal Defense Lawyer in Massachusetts
The most important consideration in hiring a criminal defense lawyer in Massachusetts is your personal comfort level with that person. Obviously, by the time you have made the call and sat down to meet with a lawyer you have done your research. If you are comfortable with this person, then hire him. There are however a few things you should be aware of before you make this decision. 1) Make sure that you have not been promised a particular result. There are no guarantees in this business and it is unethical to give one. 2) Make sure that the lawyer’s fee is consistent with other lawyers with whom you have consulted. If you have a drug trafficking case and a lawyer is quoting you a $5,000 fee when all others are between $15,000 and $25,000 be careful. As with anything else in life you get what you pay for. 3) Watch out for lawyers who say “I know the judge” or “I know the DA”. This is not good. The district attorneys have office policies they have to follow and judges are confined by the law. Moreover, a good lawyer is going to get you a good result no matter who the judge and DA are. 4) Make sure your lawyer has experience defending cases like yours. Do not hesitate to ask the lawyer for examples of similar cases he has defended and the results he has obtained.
Seeking private counsel in criminal justice cases is one of the first, and perhaps most crucial steps a person can take when faced with criminal charges. Retaining the services of one or several criminal justice counselors often establishes a relationship which is important to have especially early on in the legal process. Often times there are instances where important paperwork or documents must be filed within a certain timeline to expedite or facilitate movement through the legal system. In some cases this paperwork may only be filed by a criminal justice counselor.
While this demonstrates how essential it can be to work closely with private counsels in criminal justice litigation cases, it can sometimes be difficult to find one that is equipped to handle a wide array of cases. One recommended way to choose private counsel in criminal justice proceedings is to make a selection based on the attorney's past experience and success rate. Criminal justice counselors who have tried many cases, and who have a proven record of success often possess the skill necessary to accompany clients through nearly all legal proceedings, and obtain a favorable outcome.