It depends. The state does not provide an attorney free of charge just because you were arrested on a criminal charge. During the process of being arrested and setting the initial hearing, you will be asked whether you plan to retain an attorney to represent you. If you state that you cannot afford to retain private counsel; i.e., that you are indigent and without funds with which to hire a lawyer, the Court will appoint an attorney to represent you in any criminal proceeding which may likely result in punishment by loss of liberty (meaning jail or incarceration) and in any other criminal proceeding in which the Court concludes that the interests of justice so require. You will be required to fill out forms regarding your being indigent and will be examined by the Court to make that determination.
All of the more populous counties (such as Maricopa, Pinal or Pima) in Arizona have “public defenders” which are attorneys that are county employees and practice exclusively to provide representation to indigent defendants in criminal cases. If the county does not have a public defender such as some of the more rural, less populous counties in Arizona, a private attorney that is contracted with the county to provide such services will be appointed to the case. Most public defenders or contract attorneys who provide such services are well-versed and experienced in dealing with most criminal cases – what they lack usually is time – with the huge caseloads that most public defenders have, they are unable to give your particular case the amount of personal attention and time that you may want or think it deserves. The best advantage to retaining your own private attorney in these situations is the personal attention and time that they can devote to your case.
If you are facing significant criminal charges, you should retain an attorney or at the very least request that a public defender be appointed to your case when you are taken into custody and before any interrogation and findings of probable cause at the initial appearance.
If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, please call OWENS & PERKINS at (480) 994-8824 to schedule your free 30-minute consultation with one of our qualified criminal defense attorneys.