Do we need legal representation for misdemeanor charges?

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Do we need legal representation for misdemeanor charges?

My husband has a clean record and was recently charged with criminal mischief III, disruptive conduct II, and offensive littering. He had too much to drink and has never caused trouble before. We don’t make enough money for a lawyer. On-line we read that he could be fined $2000 and/or serve 30 days in jail. We are both really worried about the outcome and we’re wondering if he will face these charges or jail time if he has a clean record? Should we scrape up some money to get a lawyer or he can represent himself? We don’t have experience with the court system and really needs some advice.

Asked on January 8, 2011 under Criminal Law, Oregon

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Anytime a criminal charges, are involved it is critical to have competent legal representation.  An experienced criminal law attorney may be able to get one or more of the charges dismissed and/or reduced.  Additionally, since your husband is a first-time offender, he may be eligible for some form of alternative sentencing that will leave him with a clean criminal record.  And in this day and age, employers, licensing agencies, and the like do thorough background checks.  Try to hire one that is local to the court in question; they will have contacts within the court system that can be invaluable in this case.

Since jail time is potentially involved, he may be appointed a Public Defender (if he meets the income eligibility requirements).  If he doesn't, check to see if he qualifies for representation by Legal Aid (although they have their own income guidelines).  Additionally, you could see if there is a law school nearby to the court in question; they typically run legal clinics that handle just this type of case for gree/low cost.  Finally, you could also contact the local Bar Association in the county in which this has all taken place; they may have a list of attorneys who will take his case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on his income/circumstances. 


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