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Criminal Defense Lawyer Quits Mid Case

Published on 09/19/2011 -

What Happens When a Criminal Defense Lawyer Quits Mid-Case?

News outlets are reporting that a criminal defense lawyer representing Levi Aron, a man charged with killing an eight-year old boy, has decided to abandon the case. The lawyer has reportedly claimed that his reason for quitting is that he feels morally unable to defend someone who might have committed the crime in question.

This incident raises some important criminal defense law questions about the role of criminal defense lawyers in a criminal case.

Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Anyone facing criminal charges has the right to legal counsel (meaning, of course, the right to work with a lawyer). But finding the right lawyer may take some work. Before hiring a criminal defense lawyer, those facing charges may want to consider:

  • Free consultations: Many lawyers offer initial consultations free of charge. At a free consultation, a person can get to know the lawyer and determine whether they might work well together.
  • Areas of specialty: Many lawyers specialize in defending certain crimes (such as DUI or immigration-related offenses). It may make sense to choose a lawyer who has some familiarity with the type of charges a person is facing.
  • Defense strategy: Discussing in advance the various options a person has when faced with criminal charges (including, in some cases, plea choices and courtroom strategy) can help both the lawyer and the defendant get an idea of where the case is headed.

Putting in a little background work before going to court may ease any tensions that could arise later in the criminal defense case.

When Can a Lawyer Quit a Case?

Luckily, criminal defense laws prevent lawyers from abandoning their clients in all but rare cases. Specifically:

  • Lawyers are obligated to defend their clients as best they can. That's part of being a lawyer. In some cases, if a lawyer has solid ethical reasons for wanting to "quit" a case, she must petition the judge to be dismissed.
  • Judges must approve requests to withdraw from a case. In many cases, a judge will deny the request for dismissal (partly because a jury may grow suspicious of a defendant whose attorney quits).
  • Lawyers are obligated to keep their clients' secrets. Because of this, when a lawyer requests permission to be dismissed from a case, she cannot explicitly tell the judge anything about her reasons for quitting (if they have to do with the client or the client's defense). Rather, she may simply cite "ethical concerns."

In the story mentioned above, the defendant had another lawyer defending him. Whether or not a new lawyer will be brought in to replace the one who has left is one of the legal questions surrounding the defendant's case at this time.

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