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Photo of Attorneys at Sawyer Legal Group, LLC

Charged With A Crime? It Doesn’t Mean You’re Guilty.

The Public Defender Lawyer Gap – Too Much Money to Qualify, Not Enough to Hire a Top Defense Lawyer

On Behalf of | Mar 18, 2016 | Lawyers |

Who Gets a Colorado Public Defender Attorney

Public defender lawyers are available to anyone charged with a crime where the possible sentence is incarceration, where they might lose custody of their children, or where they might be deported. This wonderful provision came from a U.S. Supreme Court case on March 18, 1963, called Gideon v. Wainwright. There, the court, recognized that every person charged with a crime has a constitutional right to an attorney, regardless of their ability to pay. Unfortunately, in Denver and Jefferson County courts, many men and women fall into a gap where they can’t afford a private lawyer, but make too much money to qualify for a Public Defender.  Read about whether Public Defenders are good Attorneys.

Qualify for a Public Defender? Here is the Basic Formula to Know

Whether you qualify for a Public Defender lawyer to represent you in a case is determined by questions about income and assets, within three categories. Each category assigns you a number of points, and if you get 150 or greater points, you qualify for a court appointed lawyer. Below 150, you don’t qualify. Those categories are:

  • Income Guidelines
  • Expenses vs. Income
  • Your Criminal Charge Severity and Assets

Income Guidelines to Qualify for a Public Defender Attorney in Arapahoe County

The gross income of all members of your household is the starting point for Public Defender qualification. The monthly income limit for a household of one is $1197. A household of 2 is $1616 and a household of four is $2453. If your household income is at or below these numbers, you get 150 points automatically, and qualify. If your entire household earns these numbers plus up to 10% more, you will get 100 points. Over 10% more and you get zero points for income qualification.

Expenses vs. Income to Get a Douglas County Public Defender Lawyer

If your expenses for essential items exceed your income by over $100, you get 50 points. If your monthly expenses are within $100 of your income, you get 25 points. When your monthly income exceeds your expenses by over $100, you get zero points toward a Douglas County Criminal Defense Attorney.

The Charge Severity and Assets in Denver – Why They Matter

Your most severe charge is important. If it is a Class 1-3 felony and you have assets of 0-$750, you get 150 points. With assets of $2501 – $5,000, you get 75 points. Assets over $10,000 and you get zero points.

If your worst charges is a Class 4-6 felony and you have assets of 0-$750, you get 125 points. With assets of $2501 – $5,000, you get 50 points. Assets over $7501 and you get zero points.

If it is a Class 1-3 misdemeanor and you have assets of 0-$750, you get 50 points. With assets of $751 – $1500, you get 25 points. Assets over $1500 and you get zero points.

Public Defender Total Points to Qualify for a Free Attorney in Adams County

Next, you add up your points. If you have 150 or more points from these three categories, you get a Public Defender or Alternate Defense Counsel Attorney appointed for you. If you have less than 150 points, you don’t qualify. This is where the problem arises. It is very easy to NOT qualify for a Public Defender under this formula. But, many people who don’t qualify still don’t have enough income, assets or money to hire a private attorney. They are caught in the gap where they can’t get a legal defense. I’ll offer some suggestions below for these people, but many still won’t be able to have an attorney and get a quality defense. The system is not perfect.

Suggestions for Those Who Don’t Qualify for a Public Defender in Douglas County

Here are some ideas for those who don’t qualify for a court appointed attorney, but still can’t afford a private lawyer:

  • Ask family members and friends to help you hire a private attorney
  • Contact the court for a list of lawyers who work with low income persons at reduced rates
  • Sell your assets and use the money to hire a criminal defense lawyer
  • Make yourself qualify by moving to a more suitable location where the assets or income of someone who won’t help you and has been disqualifying you, will no longer prejudice you
  • Go into jail. Most people in jail automatically qualify
  • Borrow money on your car, credit cards or real estate
  • Sell a valuable asset which has been disqualifying you, and use the money for your partial defense and then reapply to the Public Defender
  • Keep calling – there are many criminal lawyers and one might take your case on at a reduced price
  • As a last resort, defend yourself – talk to the District Attorney about a plea offer without giving up any key information concerning your defense; if it is a bad offer, represent yourself at trial

Your Due Process Right to a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Due Process of law is a constitutional right in the United States and in the State of Colorado. A part of that Due Process right is that you will have legal counsel when important rights like your freedom are in jeopardy. Public Defenders are an important part of this process, and they serve their clients at great personal sacrifice. Some of the best lawyers I know are Public Defenders. The only downside of getting one is that they are overwhelmingly busy, and unable to give their clients the full attention they need. Here is a great article on the Public Defender system, to learn more:

If you don’t qualify for a court appointed public defender, call our criminal defense lawyers at 303-731-0719. We may be less expensive than you think, and we may have other ideas for you to obtain representation by one of our attorneys. Together, we can protect your future.

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