[Ed's note: This post is part of a continuing series entitled "Advice to Clients."]
"Gideon" at the Public Defender Blog has an excellent point about the problem working- and middle-class criminal defendants face.
[T]he indigence levels are so low that a middle class person earning a regular salary wouldn't qualify for a PD, but yet probably doesn't make enough money to pay a private attorney the standard $1500 for representation.
I have to assume that the "$1500" amount is a typo. [Ed's note: Read these comments.] If you're charged with a serious, non-capital felony, you should expect to pay a minimum of 15-thousand dollars. A really good criminal trial lawyer will cost between $25,000 and $50,000. If it's a serious white collar criminal offense, double those amounts.
The problem is that few people (including most lawyers) have 25K or more sitting around. What is a person to do?
The sad answer is that your only option is to cash in your 401(k) (if you're lucky enough to have one), mortgage your home, sell your car, take out credit cards, and beg and borrow from family and friends (if they haven't already abandoned you merely because you were charged with a crime). I've met too many criminal defendants concerned with their credit rating. Worry about your credit rating after obtaining a favorable disposition.
If you get an unskilled lawyer, you will spend a lot of time in prison. Not only will your credit be ruined, but likely, your life. So if you miss some credit card payments because you're paying private investigators or lawyers, don't sweat it. The only number you need concern yourself with is your "crime time." Worry about your credit score later.