Criminal trials are intense and uncomfortable for the defendant. You sit there every day, hearing all the bad things you allegedly did without being able to voice your opinion or call out lies. The anxiety and tension you feel can often culminate with you feeling that your defense team is not doing enough to argue your case. When these dissatisfied feelings emerge, many defendants want to fire or change their counsel for someone more in line with their own defense strategy. Is this possible? Can you change your attorney during a trial? The answer depends on whether you have a private defense attorney or a public defender.
Changing Private Attorney
When it comes to a private attorney, there is little restriction on what you can or cannot do in terms of hiring or firing. While a judge might think your decision is misguided, they cannot force you to keep a private attorney. Most personal lawyers even have a termination clause in their contracts, which allows you to fire them whenever you see fit. However, keep in mind that terminating a private lawyer mid-trial will most likely not grant you grounds for an appeal later.
Changing Court-Appointed Attorney
Switching attorneys mid-trial, when you have a court-appointed attorney, is not so simple. You will need to request permission from the judge to make such a switch, and the judge is not likely to grant your request. You must convince the judge that your current lawyer is not prepared or suited to defend you. The judge will consider your reasons, but depending on the case, the state of the trial and how far into the trial you are, a judge may not permit the change, especially if they feel it would negatively affect your right to a fair trial.
Before you decide to fire your attorney or request a change in representation from the judge handling your case, consider your current emotional state. Criminal cases are stressful. High levels of stress and anxiety can lead to poor decision-making. Consider that you may not be the best judge of the current state of your trial and that by switching attorneys, you could make things worse for yourself. All lawyers take an oath to practice law ethically and in the best interest of their clients. Don’t assume that your attorney is doing a lousy job simply because you are uncomfortable. Contact a criminal defense attorney in San Mateo, CA to discuss common strategies and to determine if you really have a reason to be concerned.
Thanks to the Morales Law Firm for their insight into criminal law and how to change attorneys.