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Article by Daniel A. Levy, Esq.

In New Jersey, if a criminal defendant is indigent and cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint a public defender. But what happens if you don’t like your public defender? Do you have the right to switch public defenders or choose a new public defender yourself? This question was raised before the New Jersey Supreme Court, which we will discuss below.

Related: Criminal Law, What happens on the first court date if arrested in New Jersey?


Do I have the right to choose my own public defender?

As most people know, those who cannot afford an attorney will receive the services of a public defender. In the case of State v. Miller, the defendant received a public defender but argued that his right to effective counsel under the Sixth Amendment was violated. Miller faced significant criminal penalties and his case was going to trial. However, he never even met the appointed public defender until just before trial. The trial judge set the trial date two weeks earlier and the file was sent to the public defender for review. The public defender the morning that trial was to begin. He told the judge that he read the case file and was prepared to proceed but needed some time to meet with the client and establish some kind of relationship with the client. The trial judge denied the request. The public defender met with his client that afternoon after a pre-trial hearing and they discussed the case. The jury was picked the following day, and because the public defender was busy on other trials, Mr. Miller’s trial did not resume until 3 days later. Miller did not have the opportunity to meet with his public defender. The trial was completed and a defense was presented, but Miller was convicted.

Miller argued on appeal that he was deprived of effective counsel because he never met with the public defender until the week of trial and they had no time to develop any kind of relationship. The Supreme Court held that it may have been better for the trial to have been briefly adjourned, but there was no error or deprivation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. In other words, a defendant doesn’t have a right to develop a rapport with a public defender. The court went on to point out that a criminal defendant will receive a public defender who must be competent, but a defendant has no right to choose which public defender he receives, nor a right to meet with the public defender in advance of trial.

New Jersey Criminal Defense – Free Consultation With Skilled Attorney

The police and prosecutors aggressively prosecute criminals in New Jersey, and sometimes they accuse innocent people and/or violate people’s rights. A private attorney will obviously cost more money than a public defender, but a private attorney will certainly meet with the client well in advance of trial and prepare a defense with the client. We aggressively protect our clients’ rights and competently represent them throughout the process. If you or someone you know was arrested, please call us for a 100% free consultation with a skilled attorney.

Based in Paterson, New Jersey, Raff & Raff, LLP services clients in the communities of Bloomingdale, Clifton, Haledon, Hawthorne, Little Falls, Passaic, Paterson, Pompton Lakes, Prospect Park, Ringwood, Totowa, Wanaque, Wayne, West Milford, Woodland Park, Allendale, Alpine, Bergenfield, Bogota, Carlstadt, Cliffside Park, Closter, Cresskill, Demarest, Dumont, East Rutherford, Edgewater, Elmwood Park, Emerson, Englewood, Fair Lawn, Fort Lee, Franklin Lakes, Garfield, Glenn Rock, Hackensack, Hasbrouck Heights, Haworth, Hillsdale, Ho-Ho-Kus, Leonia, Little Ferry, Lodi, Lyndhurst, Mahwah, Maywood, Midland Park, Montvale, Moonachie, New Milford, North Arlington, Northvale, Norwood, Oakland, Old Tappan, Oradell, Palisades Park, Paramus, Park Ridge, Ramsey, Ridgefield, Ridgewood, River Edge, River Vale, Rochelle Park, Rockleigh, Rutherford, Saddle Brook, Saddle River, Teaneck, Tenafly, Teterboro, Waldwick, Wallington, Westwood, Wood-Ridge, Woodcliff Lake, Wyckoff, Belleville, Bloomfield, Caldwell, Cedar Grove, Orange, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Livingston, Maplewood, Millburn, Montclair, Newark, North Caldwell, Nutley, Roseland, Verona, Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken, Union City, West New York, Guttenberg, Secaucus, Kearney, Harrison, North Bergen, Weehawken, Elizabeth, Linden, Plainsfield, Rahway, Union, Scotch Plains, Clark, Cranford, Hillside, Westfield, Roselle, and surrounding areas.