Your Public Defender Is Acting Like A "Good Cop"— What To Do

If you start feeling like your public defender is the "good cop" in a "good cop/bad cop" scenario, you may wonder if your defense is hopeless. Unfortunately, sometimes a lawyer can appear to be just a mild-mannered spokesman for the prosecutor. You may also wonder what you can do to change things and get an adequate defense.

Educating Yourself about Public Defenders

"Public Defenders" are full-time employees of the government and "court appointed attorneys" will probably be lawyers in private practices that are hired to take on occasional cases as needed. While they may communicate with the other parties in the system, such as the prosecutor's office and the court, they are ethically required to negotiate in your behalf and to help you prepare a good defense, should your case go to trial.

However, attorneys are only human, and can become a little jaded or burned out when defending many cases that appear to be similar to yours. Some issues may be apparent such as:

  • The lawyer is young and/or inexperienced.

  • The person seems to possess a judgmental attitude.

  • There is a personality clash between you and the attorney.

  • You aren't coming across as a sympathetic defendant, because of your own attitude.

If the attorney is brusque, it may be that you need to do a better job of communicating what happened, why it happened, or otherwise give a reasonable account of yourself. If you are withholding information (possibly to protect someone else), your attorney can sense that and will want you to be honest with him or her.

Requesting a Different Court Appointed Attorney

If the issues between you and the attorney are unresolvable, it is possible to make a request to the judge or the public defender's office to make a change. If this is your first request, it may be granted. You can also discuss the situation with the attorney, and he/she may ask to be discharged from the case.

In some areas it is necessary to write a letter to the judge requesting "Substitution of Counsel." In this letter you should briefly outline the reasons why you want to change lawyers and to arrange to meet with the judge.

Whichever way you do this, you need to make sure the judge understands you still want a court appointed lawyer because of your financial situation.

Hire a Private Attorney

If the case is very complex, it may be in your best interests to take a loan out or sell some resources you have, and hire a criminal defense lawyer of your own choosing. This may be tough, but you know your freedom is invaluable. You may be able to do some of the work yourself, with your attorney's guidance, to save money.

It also possible that you might find local lawyer who will help you pro bono, or at reduced rates. Any way you look at it, you are not without options, and you should expect to get an adequate defense and be determined to prevail.

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