You’ve heard it a thousand times before on TV shows and in movies when cops Mirandize a suspect… “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.” But what isn’t included in that overview of a defendant’s right to counsel, is the truth about many court appointed attorneys. Like it or not, statistics prove that court appointed attorneys will probably do less for you than if you hired your own criminal defense attorney. And if you know anything about how CPS operates, those just aren’t acceptable odds!
An investigative journalism piece published last year in the Lansing State Journal dealt with this exact issue – the fact that court appointed attorneys do very little in the way of public defense. To be fair, the budget provided to the public defender’s office is only a fraction of the Prosecutor’s budget, so they have far less to work with. That aside, it is a very unbalanced system, and as a result, a great many people suffer.
According to the article, the Lansing State Journal reviewed more than 3,500 invoices from court appointed attorneys in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties. The results, as you can imagine, were frightening. Court appointed attorneys, it seems, do very little for their assigned clients. Less than 2% of impoverished people who chose a court appointed attorney actually went to trial. This means they accepted a plea bargain, which is pretty much the same thing as just admitting that you’re guilty of something and agreeing to be sentenced.
Court appointed attorneys make decisions before they meet their clients.
Records also revealed that in many cases, the court appointed defense attorney would initiate plea bargain negotiations before they had ever even met their clients. Can you imagine that? Your attorney setting up your guilty plea before they’ve ever even met you? Most court appointed attorneys meet their clients on the day they first appear in court together, which means that they know little about the case, or the person, beyond what the police and the prosecutor have to say about that person. A very one-sided perspective.
In CPS cases, this is even more of an issue, because while the police at least have regulations that govern how and when they may interview a suspect, CPS doesn’t. So when your court appointed attorney shows up on that first day of court, having never met you before or heard your side of the story, all they know is what CPS and the cops have told them. And we all know how CPS workers get their information about accused parents…
CPS cases are very different from other types of criminal cases. CPS workers are allowed to come into your home, discuss your situation with you under the guise of helping you, and then turn all of that information over to the cops. They are not required to mirandize you before they speak to you. They do not have to tell you that whatever you say could end up in a police file. They do not even have to be honest with you. So with that in mind, imagine how damaging it would be to be defended by an attorney who doesn’t have the time to talk to you – ever – and simply starts the process for your guilty plea before they’ve even met you.
Join us next time, as we continue this discussion about court appointed attorneys in MIchigan CPS cases. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of child abuse or neglect, we urge you not to rely on the court appointed lawyers or the public defender’s office for a solution to your problem. Call us instead. The CPS defense team at The Kronzek Firm has built up lasting relationships with a wide variety of experts. We have decades of experience all over Michigan, and regardless of what accusations have been made against you by CPS, we work to strategically and aggressively defend against those charges.