A defendant has the right to legal counsel in Nevada. Whether you are facing a DUI charge or a federal complaint, you have the right to receive assistance from a defense lawyer (unless you choose to defend yourself in court). It is one of the principal rights of a defendant in a court of law.
However, not everyone can afford the services of a lawyer. In such instances, the court is obligated to provide a public defender to represent the defendant during the trial. Let’s look at how defendants get a public defender in Nevada.
Like many other aspects of the law, there are several requirements in place before a defendant can avail of a public defender. In the case of Nevada courts, the following requirements are in effect:
- The prosecution seeks prison time for the defendant, or the conviction can lead to a prison sentence
- The defendant must file a request to receive a public defender as soon as they receive their arraignment
- The court must determine that the defendant is indigent after the request has been filed
Note that there may be other requirements required, depending on the individual involved and the kind of charges filed against the defendant.
The Financial Factors
Public defenders are only available for clients who really cannot afford the legal fees of private firms. They can offer their services for free in most cases because they operate through public funding. It is up to the courts to determine if the client is truly indigent, however.
The court is responsible for reviewing all the financial documents submitted alongside the request for a public defender. It conducts a review of all the defendant’s finances and expenses over a certain period to see if they truly are indigent. There is no true standard when it comes to indigency as different people have different circumstances.
It must be noted, however, that the court will require the defendant to pay for the public defender’s services if they can find a stable means of employment within six years after the legal proceedings. Clients can choose to pay in one go or through installment; they can also receive a court order to do so. In certain cases, they can also file for the payment to be deferred or stopped completely if their circumstances require them to do so.
Public Defenders and Private Attorneys
Compared to private practices, public defenders aren’t really all that different. They are staffed by competent lawyers with years of experience in various cases. The pay-later scheme reduces the burden imposed on defendants who are already dealing with other financial woes.
There are several setbacks for public defenders, however. For instance, the client cannot choose which public defender is assigned to him or her. Many public defenders are often swamped with multiple cases, making it difficult to focus on any one case at a time. Some defenders can’t even meet all their clients because of the overwork. In rare cases, some public defenders don’t defend their clients aggressively enough.
Public defenders offer a great alternative for people seeking legal help when they can’t afford to pay. However, if you are willing to go the extra mile to have your case dismissed, you should consider signing up with a veteran Las Vegas defense attorney instead.