Raleigh Criminal Attorney Addresses News Article Discussing Changes to Court-Appointed Counsel for Indigent Defendants

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M. Moseley Matheson, a Raleigh Criminal Defense Attorney, discusses recent changes to the court-appointed program, as reported by The Wilson Times.

Raleigh Criminal Lawyer

Raleigh Criminal Attorney M. Moseley Matheson

So, even though this program will reduce the overall costs for the initial representation, if these cases are appealed on the grounds of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, these contract could result in the added costs.

For anyone facing traffic or criminal charges in North Carolina, one of the first thoughts to pops into their head is the fact that you will likely want legal representation. Whether they need a Raleigh DUI Attorney, or criminal attorney in Charlotte or Asheville, it is important to find good representation for the case. However, what does a Defendant do when they cannot afford to hire an attorney? Under our Constitution, all defendants are afford the right to having legal counsel when facing criminal charges. Therefore, every state, as well as federal court, have programs in place to insure that those Defendants deemed indigent are appointed attorneys to represent their interests. This process is normally split up between Defense Attorneys from a Public Defender's Office as well as private defense attorneys that are appointed work.

In years past, many attorneys would sign up for the 'Court Appointed List' in order to be assigned defendants in criminal cases. For example, the Matheson Law Office signed up to serve as a Wake County Criminal Defense Attorney for the Wake County Court Appointed List. In many ways, this type of work was a right of passage for many new lawyers as it exposed these attorneys to the court system while at the same time providing quality legal representation to our public's less fortunate. However, recent changes to the design of the 'Court Appointed List' has not only made it hard for lawyers to receive court appointed work but could potentially limited the level of quality a Defendant could receive in their case.

As was reported on the Wilson Times April 4, 2013, the North Carolina Indigent Defense Services has started enacting changes put forth by General Assembly whereby attorneys who wish to be appointed cases must entered into contracts with the Indigent Defense Services for representation of a set number of cases. Previously, Criminal Defense Attorneys North Carolina would be paid on an hourly basis for the cases they worked. Under the new contract plan, the Attorneys are paid a flat fee for the number of cases they take, regardless of how much time is spent on each case.

Now, some might argue that this would be a more efficient means of providing indigent defendants with legal representation compared to the hourly rate. However, there are serious concerns about the number of cases being assigned compared to the flat rate being paid.

"As a Raleigh Criminal Lawyer, I appreciated the opportunity to represent clients from the Court Appointed List. Though the hourly rate was not substantial, it was enough to justify the time committed to helping those less fortunate. However, when I examined the number of cases I would have to receive under the contract system, compared to the flat fee I would be paid, I determined that I could not afford to take on these cases." Cary DUI Attorney M. Moseley Matheson stated. "As much as I want to help those in need of appointed attorneys, the rate per case was significantly lower then what I could expect from the hourly rate and I could not, in good conscious, take on those cases without being concerned about limiting the amount of time I spent on each case."

As the Wilson Times reports, the budgets set by the General Assembly for Appointed Attorney for 2012 was $66,963,199, which is almost three million dollars less then the budget given for 2006. This change had already led to a reduction in appointment fees under the hourly rate, and now with the contract program being phased in, their is anticipation that the Indigent Defense Services will make better use of this budget but could impact the resources available to these Defense Attorneys.

"The problem with this new program, aside from opportunity for large firms to take over the bulk of appointment work from smaller firms, the potential for the quality of representation provided to Indigent Defendants could be diminished. Under the contract program, an attorney will be paid a flat fee for all cases, regardless if some cases take a much longer time then others." Raleigh DWI Attorney M. Moseley Matheson stated. "So, even though this program will reduce the overall costs for the initial representation, if these cases are appealed on the grounds of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, which is a Constitutional guarantee, these contract could result in the added costs of appeal representation, both for the State and the Indigent Defense Services."

If you are in need of a Wake County Criminal Defense Attorney, and want to know whether you can afford quality legal representation, contact the Matheson Law Office today at 919-335-5291 for your free consultation. They will discuss your case with you and attempt to work out a payment option that fits your needs.

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