Any criminal lawyer will tell you that the ineffective assistance of trial counsel is one of the most frequently raised claims in state and federal post conviction petitions. Considering the state of most state funded counseling these days, this is hardly surprising. Many state attorneys refuse to investigate their cases before trial, never meet with their clients before the trial, or fail to file any motions or object to inadmissible evidence during the trial. The circumstances of your case come down to the quality of your criminal lawyer. Choosing one may be the most important legal decision you make.
The American Bar Association released a recent conclusion that indigent defense in this country has reached a state of crisis. Many defenders are forced to handle well over a thousand cases a year, more than 3 times the ABA says a lawyer can adequately handle. In this challenging tax economy, public defenders in many communities simply don’t have the funds to give their clients the adequate defense the Constitution demands.
Added to this burden, the very structure of our state and federal post conviction review systems further contributes to the problem instead of providing a solution. Procedural efforts to review it make it difficult for defendants to challenge the effectiveness of their criminal lawyer. As a result, there is really no way of prosecuting lawyer incompetence, which leads to a system of unaccountability on the part of a community funded criminal lawyer.
Problems with State Post Conviction Review Procedures
Many states require defendants challenging the ineffective assistance of their trail counsel must do so through post conviction review, rather than on direct appeal. Most states limit direct appeal to statements and actions directly reflected by the trial record. Because proving ineffective assistance of trial counsel often depends upon a lawyer and his or her failure to do something, the legal proceedings need to take in more than just the direct appeal.
Defense attorneys are given very short time windows to file such motions (often in as little as 30 days), so the defense they get to represent them is often the same one who is the subject of the motion, which creates a conflict of interest. It is very difficult to make a case in such the limited time period allowed.
Clients also have difficulty making legal claims asserting ineffective assistance of trial counsel because they have no Constitutional right to counsel on post conviction review. A client who must then represent himself during a post conviction review has to blindly deal with filing deadlines, substantiating evidence and prosecuting the case, which is beyond the capabilities of most of the accused.
The value of a quality lawyer
The solution is to be represented by a reputable lawyer from the beginning. While state funded lawyers may fulfill the state’s need to provide legal counsel, it is far from adequate legal counsel. If you need a criminal lawyer, any investment you can make in your case is worth the effort. A good lawyer can create a much more beneficial outcome that will make post conviction review completely irrelevant.
Money for quality legal advice is money that is well spent. When considering your future, get the best criminal lawyer you can afford, even if it means taking out a loan or other investment to fund the means.