Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ithaca DWI Lawyer: Why Upstate New York Public Defenders and Assigned Counsel Has Problems

Would YOU hire him?
The headlines are gripping:

         Why You're in Deep Trouble If You Can't Afford a Lawyer

                                                                     Mother Jones Magazine

The New York State public defense system is in need of reformation and change. Of the 62 NYS counties, 24 have public defender offices, and the other 38 use assigned counsel (aka 18-B) lawyers. Ithaca (Tompkins County) and Watkins Glen (Schuyler County) use assigned counsel lawyers exclusively for public defense.

New York State uses full and part time public defenders as well as assigned counsel lawyers. All are paid for their legal services by their respective county either on a flat rate or an hourly rate. Some seemingly private attorneys also take public defense (assigned counsel) cases. There are numerous issues with New York's public system because it is largely overworked and underfunded.

Can you get by with a New York Public defender for your DWI or DWAI drugs charges?

New York's Public Defender System Declared Inadequate and Ineffective by the NYCLU

What is the New York Civil Liberties Union?
The mission of the NYCLU is to protect and defend the rights and liberties embodied in the Bill of Rights and the United States and New York State constitutions.
So naturally this organization deeply cares about the level of representation the government has to provide to people that can't afford a private attorney as required by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Federal Constitution and Article 1, Section 6 of the New York State Constitution.

This was there findings after their investigation into numerous New York State public defense offices and assigned counsel programs:

Although our investigations are not complete, we have already seen troubling indications of inadequate and ineffective representation including: 
  • lack of assigned attorney contact with clients before and after key steps in the legal process, including: failure to visit clients in jail, repeated failure to accept or return client phone calls, failure to respond to client letters, failure to engage in meaningful communication with clients prior to scheduled court proceedings
  • lack of timely action by assigned attorneys on behalf of their clients, including: repeated postponements and failures to appear in court, which can and has resulted in additional and unnecessary weeks or months of pre-trial detention,
  • failure of assigned attorneys to investigate the circumstances of an alleged crime including exculpatory information, or to pursue any legal options beyond the unquestioned acceptance of a plea deal offered by the prosecution,
  • failure of assigned attorneys to present mitigating evidence that might encourage a reduced sentence, or to pursue the potential for sentencing alternatives - even when free services are available to investigate and present such alternatives.
  • actions taken by attorneys on behalf of clients without consultation or consent, including waiving preliminary hearings and engaging in plea negotiations against the client’s wishes,

In a Nutshell The New York Public Defense System is In Desperate Need of Change

1. Inadequate Communication: Failure to return calls, respond to letters, or even meet with clients.

2. Late to act:  late to file motions, failures to appear, and delaying the process entirely.

3. No to little Investigation or challenge to the government's evidence.

4. Failure to bring up alternatives to incarceration or at least trying to decrease punishments.

The NYCLU has recently filed a lawsuit accusing five New York State counties of failing to provide an adequate defense for indigent clients.

New York Is Likely to Have More Problems with Eased Guidelines to Qualify for Public Defense 

New York State has recently loosened the financial guidelines for getting a Free attorney. The problem is, the system is overwhelmed and not working in it's current state. Adding more cases and a greater load to the assigned and public defender attorneys will only make matters worse.