A criminal trial will likely be tense for the defendant. Having prosecutors dismiss and dismantle your character in front of twelve people who will decide your fate is frustrating and demeaning. During a prosecutor’s questioning and witness testimony, it is easy to become angry and agitated with your defense attorney, especially when they don’t object to apparent lies. However, it is necessary to remember that a courtroom has rules of etiquette, and while it may appear that your lawyer is performing a disservice, that is likely not the case. If you are convinced of their inadequacy as your counsel, though, what are your options? Can you fire your lawyer? The answer depends on whether your attorney was hired or appointed.
As a defendant, you have certain constitutional rights as to how your defense is formed and argued. If you hired an attorney, then you have greater flexibility. When you hire a lawyer, you sign a contract, and that agreement likely stipulates rules for termination. You have the right to fire a hired attorney for any reason and at any time. While such an action may not be in the best interest of your case, you can do it. You should weigh the decision to fire or change an attorney mid-trial against the rapport that the attorney has already established with the jury. Building a relationship with those twelve strangers is hard work, and letting a lawyer go can undermine any future rapport building, so tread cautiously.
While it is relatively easy to swap attorneys when you hire them, it is more challenging if you are using a court-appointed attorney or public defender. You cannot fire a public defender mid-trial without court approval, which is not easy to get. You will need to show bias or inefficiency of counsel to even make a claim for changing lawyers. Also, if a judge entertains the idea, they will be less likely to grant a request the further in a case you are. A judge’s job is to make sure you have a fair trial, and they understand that sometimes changing lawyers is not in your best interest.
Before you psych yourself up to change your attorney, ask yourself a couple of questions. Did you hire your attorney, or were they court-appointed? Will changing lawyers at this point in your case negatively affect the jury’s opinion of you? Are you just acting out because of stress and anxiety? If you are having trouble answering these questions, then consult with a criminal defense lawyer, like a criminal defense lawyer in Rockville, MD, about your case before making any decision.
Thanks to the Law Office of Daniel J. Wright for their insight into the process of changing attorneys during a criminal trial.
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