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Should I hire a private attorney to represent me?

If you’ve been arrested and bailed out of jail or have a warrant out for your arrest, you are in serious trouble. In almost every case you are best served by hiring the best criminal attorney you can afford. If you were seriously injured, would you treat yourself or call a Doctor? Probably see a doctor. Attorneys are trained professionals to act as your advocate in the courtroom to ensure your rights are protected. And minimize serious harm to you. At you first court appearance, there should be Public Defenders or other court appointed attorneys available to answer a question, if needed when you are before the judge. People who can’t afford a lawyer and are accused of a crime may qualify for free help from the Public Defender’s office. Only the court can appoint a public defender to represent a defendant in the courtroom. Remember, Public Defenders represent the poor and indigent who cannot afford an attorney. For example, if you own a home, you would not qualify for a public defender. If you are employed, you also may not qualify for a Public Defender, but may qualify for a court appointed attorney where you are charged a fee based upon income level and ability to pay.

How do I locate a private attorney?

Bail Bondsman, by law (California Administrative Code, Title 10 Section 2071), cannot recommend or provide referral to an attorney. There are still plenty of options for you to locate a criminal attorney:

  1. Orange County Bar Association (949-440-6700) provides the Legal Referral and Information Service (LRIS) ( It can be accessed on their website. Look for the link titled “Need a Lawyer?” at the top of their web page just below their name.
  2. Ask an attorney you know. While they may not be a criminal attorney, chances are they have met some at continuing education classes, have friends from law school or will know who to ask to find a criminal attorney for you.
  3. Word of Mouth: Think about any fiends or relatives who may have needed a criminal attorney and ask them for advice on hiring an attorney.
  4. Visit the Court: This may be the best way to locate an attorney. Before your scheduled court date, visit the court where your hearing is scheduled. Visit some of the courtrooms, and observe the attorney’s in action. Try to identify an attorney’s you feel comfortable with based on his demeanor, comfort in the court, type of case they are handling or any other criteria you consider important. Then when they leave the courtroom, approach them in the hallway, introduce yourself and explain you are trying to locate and attorney to handle your case. Every attorney I have asked about this approach would be thrilled to speak with a prospective client, so give it a try!

Suggestions on finding an attorney:

  1. Try to find an Attorney that regularly goes to the courthouse your case is scheduled for.
  2. Ask when and how many times they have actually gone to trial. The number isn’t important, but the fact they are comfortable doing that if your case calls for it. If all they do is plea bargain cases and don’t go to court, they may not be serving your best interest.
  3. Someone who is familiar with and has handled cases like yours. If you have a drug case, find an attorney that handles those types of cases. If you have a drinking and driving case, your best choice may be a DUI defense “expert.”
  4. Check out their the attorney at the State Bar of California Website:  The attorney search screen can provide valuable background information

If a public defender is not available in your area, a judge in most cases will appoint a private attorney to represent you at no charge.

These are just some suggestions and are no way absolute requirements. Use your best judgment in making the final choice for an attorney.

Legal Resources:

Orange County Public Defender’s Office
14 Civic Center Plaza
Santa Ana, CA 92701-4029
(714) 834-2144

Public Law Center
601 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 541-1010

Orange County Law Library
515 N. Flower Street, #32
Santa Ana, CA 92703 – (714) 834-3397

The State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 538-2000

Orange County Bar Association
P.O. Box 17777
Irvine, CA 92623-7777
(949) 440-6700