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Can I Change to a DUI Defense Lawyer After I Get a Public Defender?

Your first time facing criminal DUI charges can be confusing. The judge and prosecutor are using legal terms you may have never heard before, asking for a yes or no answer when you may not be sure what the consequences can be. If the judge asks if you need a lawyer appointed, you may respond “yes.” After all, you may not know a criminal defense lawyer because you've never been in trouble with the law. 

If you are appointed a public defender, you may find the communication difficult because the public defender has such a heavy caseload. You may also find that you end up meeting with multiple lawyers from the public defenders because the person you talked to before is unavailable. This can be stressful and you may want to change lawyers but worry it may be too late. 

Before you just accept your lawyer as “the way it is.” Talk to a local East Bay criminal defense attorney with experience handling DUI cases like yours. The attorney will let you know if you can change lawyers, the process of hiring a lawyer to represent you, and the next steps in your case. 

Do I Have to Stay With My Current Lawyer?

There is a lot at stake in a criminal trial. Even a first-time drunk driving conviction can lead to jail time, fines, a suspended license, and driving restrictions. If you feel like your current lawyer is not representing your best interests, you should be able to change lawyers to find someone who will listen to your concerns, communicate the criminal process clearly, and be there to answer your questions. 

You have the right to legal counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In most cases, if you ask the court to change your attorney, the judge will grant your request. Your new lawyer can handle the process of petitioning the court and getting a substitution of attorney. Talk to your new lawyer about your legal options going forward. 

When the Court May Not Approve a New Lawyer

Generally, the court will approve a change in legal counsel, so the defendant has a fair chance to get the legal representation best suited to their case. However, there are some instances where the court may not approve a new lawyer. If the defendant has regularly changed lawyers throughout the process, the judge may be less willing to keep allowing an endless change of attorneys because it would delay the case and could interfere with the legal process. Similarly, if the defendant tries to change lawyers just at the time of trial or during trial, the judge may be more hesitant to allow a substitution if the judge believes the purpose is just for delay or disruption. 

Can I Just Get Another Public Defender?

If you have a public defender and want a new public defender, you may be able to get the court to approve a substitution of counsel. If you want a different court-appointed attorney, you may be able to file a Marsden Motion. A Marsden Hearing, named after a California court case, can be based on ineffective assistance of counsel or because of an irreconcilable conflict between the attorney and defendant. 

However, it is important to understand that just because you don't like your defender may not be a reason to approve alternate counsel. Public defenders are qualified attorneys and are licensed to provide legal services in the state, just like any other criminal defense lawyer. However, they also have a heavy caseload and have to balance multiple cases at the same time. If you end up with another public defender, you may find that you liked your prior lawyer better and a judge will be less likely to approve another change in public defender. 

What to Look For in a DUI Defense Attorney

When you are looking to hire the right DUI defense lawyer for your case, make sure you are connecting with an attorney who will represent your interests in court. There are some questions you may want to ask your attorney, including: 

  • What is your experience in DUI defense?
  • Have you represented drivers in this court? With this judge?
  • Do you do all kinds of law or primarily practice in a certain type of law?
  • Can you also help me with DMV hearings?
  • Do you have training and education in field testing and chemical testing?
  • What is the attorney's reputation in the legal community?

East Bay DUI Attorney Representation

If you are arrested anywhere in Contra Costa or Alameda counties, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the DUI laws, judges, and prosecutors. With over 37 years of DUI experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how to take action to keep your driving privileges and avoid the most serious criminal penalties. Contact our office today for help with your DUI.

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