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Risks Inherent When Relying on Public Defender’s Office

Kern County’s Public Defender’s Office appears to be pushed to the brink in terms of their ability to competently handle their caseload.

It is no secret that, over the past couple of years, a huge number of experienced and highly competent attorneys have left the Kern County Public Defender’s Office for private practice. And that Office has responded by repeatedly hiring fresh batches of new attorneys, usually straight out of law school, or with very little criminal defense experience. While this mentality certainly saves money, it leaves clients who depend on the service of the Public Defender (mainly for relatively minor offenses such as DUI, narcotics possession and sales, theft, spousal abuse or domestic violence, etc.) with added risks in their criminal cases that are already fraught with inherent potential pitfalls. Let me refer to two cases that I have handled just within the past week that prove my point:

Late last week a new client came in with a very straightforward possession of narcotics (H&S 11379 and H&S 11377) case. The case had been filed with the court in November. The client had been to court at least three separate times and each time the case was continued because she had not yet spoken with her assigned public defender, despite making numerous attempts and leaving several un-returned voice mail messages.

Another case that I inherited from the Public Defender’s Office in November when it was set for jury trial was dismissed today after only my third appearance. Not because of any magic trick or loophole that I was able to find, but rather simply because I had the time to take the extra step that the Public Defender did not.

The point is, when caseloads get so big that individual clients and cases are neglected, either in terms of client contact or preparation, it is the clients who suffer. Having an attorney who doesn’t have time to return calls and can only speak to you in court is nearly akin to having no attorney at all. Likewise, pushing a case to the brink of trial because even an experienced attorney doesn’t have the time or resources to “turn over every stone” is an unnecessary addition of risk to an already inherently risky situation.

To be fair though, the Kern County Public Defender’s Office does have a small core of dedicated and HIGHLY professional, experienced, and competent criminal defense attorneys and support staff; however, those attorneys are almost always assigned only the most serious and complex criminal cases.  If you or someone you know has been charged with a relatively minor offense (DUI, narcotics possession and sales, theft, spousal abuse or domestic violence, etc.), there can still be some very serious consequences.  Don’t take chances if you don’t have too! Hire an experienced and respected criminal defense attorney.  CALL THE LAW OFFICE OF JOEL E. LUECK TODAY

Even Misdemeanor Offenses Have Serious Consequences

A recent article published by Slate highlights the severe consequences of misdemeanor convictions and the fact that these consequences are often unknown to the defendants even after they have entered a guilty plea. The other troublesome aspect of the misdemeanor arm of the criminal justice system, as pointed out by the article, is the fact that despite actually being innocent of the charges filed against them, many misdemeanor defendants actually plead guilty for a variety of reasons. Among them are:

  • Just to get out of jail
  • Inadequate knowledge of their rights
  • Inadequate knowledge of the evidence in their favor
  • Pressure from over-worked public defenders
  • Pressure from Judges who assume the defendant’s guilt

As the article correctly states, “The repercussions of a petty conviction can be anything but minor. These offenses are increasingly punished with hefty fines that low-income defendants cannot pay. A conviction of any kind can ruin a person’s job prospects. A petty conviction can affect eligibility for professional licenses, child custody, food stamps, student loans, and health care or lead to deportation. In many cities, a misdemeanor makes you ineligible for public housing.”

If you’ve been charged with a seemingly minor offense, take the time to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney with a proven track record of success. Hiring a private attorney doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome, but hiring the right attorney can guarantee that your rights are protected and your questions are answered.