You’ve bonded out. You’re pretty much broke. The jail told you to fill out the paperwork and pay the fee to apply for a public defender.
Here’s the deal: If you are going to court in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, and you are out on a professional bond, you are probably not going to receive a Public Defender. The local judges have decided that you are not eligible. If you have resources to bond out (even if they are someone else’s resources, like your mom’s), you can afford your own lawyer.
Now you and I know that may not be the case. Sometimes other people bond us out because they know that we can’t afford it and they love us. But usually those people use their last buck bonding you out. They don’t have any more money for an attorney. But you will be required to hire your own lawyer.
I don’t tell you this to scare you, although its scary. I just don’t want you to be surprised. I’ve seen people standing in the halls of the courthouse with a look of shock and terror on their face. I just don’t want that to happen to you.
You usually don’t need an attorney for your very first court date. Its an arraignment. That is a fancy-legalese-word for ‘telling you what your charges are”. You have a right to know what you’re charged with and an arraignment is where they do that. In Oklahoma County its usually Judge Hall who arraigns folks. He tells you what you’re charged with. He makes sure your bond papers are correct. He tells you your next court date. He almost always enters a plea of “Not guilty” for you. (Don’t correct him. If you want to plead guilty, be patient. You’ll get your chance.) Then he’ll turn you loose.
If Judge Hall (or whichever judge reads you your charges) gives you a piece of paper with your next court date on it, you need a lawyer. You need a lawyer for the next court date. If you show up without a lawyer in Oklahoma County for that second court date and you’re out on bond, you will be told to come back in two hours with a lawyer. Hell, I can’t buy a pair of pants in two hours. How the hell are you supposed to hire a lawyer?
Well, what do think you can hire for the $50 that you can round up in two hours? Ya gotta plan ahead.
Almost all the criminal lawyers in this town will consult with you for free. They will sit down and talk with you about your case, once, for free. Call some lawyers. Go meet them. Yes. Its a pain in the buttocks. Yes. It feels like a huge waste of time. But the goal is to meet someone that you trust. You’re not marrying this person. You’re not forming a “bond” with this guy or gal. You just want to feel like they know what they’re doing. You want to get a sense that they care about your problem and not just getting your money. (Don’t get me wrong. We all do this for money. To feed our children. Money is important.) Unfortunately, there are lawyers who will tell you anything at all just to get your money. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
Get a quote on what they will charge you. Ask if they’ll let you pay out that payable in a few payments or if they need the whole amount up front. Ask how long they’ve been practicing law. Ask what kind of law they practice. (Its really hard to keep up with more than a couple of areas of the law and be any good at any of them.) Hopefully, you’ll meet someone who makes you feel comfortable. You feel like they know what they’re doing. You are literally going to trust this person with your life. At the least, you should trust them.
If you don’ t have a lawyer by that second court date, wait until you can talk to the judge. Don’t whine. Don’t talk about your case. You are going to solve the judge’s problem. Their problem is that they have too many cases. They have to keep the cases moving. So you’re going to explain to the judge about how you’ve talked to a lawyer you’d like to hire. You’re going to talk about how you can hire your own lawyer, you just need 30 or 45 days to get the money put together. You just got out of jail and you need time to work at your job and put some money together. You aren’t whining about how unfair this is. You aren’t complaining about how hard your life is. You are showing the judge that you are trying to solve her problem.
Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes its the only thing we can do and we just pray that it will work.
If the judge gives you time to come up with a lawyer, come up with a lawyer. No, really! Go find a lawyer. Get a second job. Sell your clothes. Sell your motorcycle. Sell your camper, your guns, your guitar, your second car. Get busy. Because if that Judge gives you a “break’ and you don’t take advantage of it, there will not be another break. The Judge will put you in jail and give you a Public Defender. She will have solved her problem.
Come see us. We want to help you solve your problem. It’s what we do. It’s what we like to do. It’s what we’ve been doing for almost twenty years. I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ without my attorney! Robert B. Carter, 405-236-1800