Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 11, 2020

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If you have retained an attorney of your own instead of choosing a public defender, it is your responsibility to pay that attorney any and all fees for his or her service.

If you run out of funds to do so before the trial takes place, the state will not take up the bill for you and continue to pay the attorney. You will be forced to switch to the services of a public defender unless you can find another way to pay the attorney or unless it is so close to the time of trial that it would be unduly prejudicial for you to change lawyers and the court refuses to excuse the private lawyer. 

What will happen if I can’t afford an attorney?

Many people question whether it is fair to make you switch lawyers because, in many cases, the attorney in place has a distinct understanding of the case, and it can be considered a serious loss to your defense if you are forced to switch to another attorney at a date close to trial.

However, unless there are extraordinary circumstances that prevent the judge from allowing your attorney to withdraw (for example, if doing so might pose a threat to the attorney, expose confidential information, or compromise any person or thing related to the trial), the court will simply postpone your trial date. This will allow the new public defender brought onto your case enough time to become educated on the specifics of your case before going to trial.

To secure the best defense possible, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer before the trial and to establish a clear payment agreement that you can afford so your defense does not become interrupted during the course of your case.