Legal Malpractice in Criminal Defense Cases
If you (or a loved one) have been convicted of a crime, there may be certain things you wish the defense attorney had done differently. This is natural. But if the attorney's actions (or inaction) prevented you from winning the case, you may have a claim for legal malpractice. Consult a new attorney to discuss your case.
Before You File a Legal Malpractice Lawsuit
If you believe that your defense attorney was negligent in defending you — and that is why you were convicted of a crime — you may be thinking about filing a legal malpractice lawsuit against the attorney. The process, however, is not as simple as it may first appear.
The courts have taken steps to ensure that people who are convicted of crimes shoulder the entire responsibility for those crimes. This means that a defense attorney should not be liable for malpractice unless there is a showing of fault. When a defense attorney has been negligent in representing a client, the client has a significant burden to prove.
Before a client who has been convicted of a crime may sue for legal malpractice, many jurisdictions will require the previous conviction to have been overturned or corrected in some way, such as having the sentence reduced. Before you can sue your defense attorney for legal malpractice, therefore, you must first attend to your criminal case.
On the other hand, your state may not require your criminal sentence to be modified before you file a legal malpractice lawsuit. If this is true, and you win the malpractice lawsuit, it does not mean that your criminal sentence will automatically be overturned due to ineffective assistance of counsel. That is a separate issue.
If you had a court-appointed defense attorney, some jurisdictions will allow you to sue the defense attorney for malpractice, and some won't. Contact a new attorney for advice on these matters.
What You Need to Prove in a Legal Malpractice Lawsuit
A defense attorney's mistakes must have been serious enough that the attorney breached his or her duty to the client and thereby harmed the client. Even if the defense attorney was negligent in defending the client, though, that alone is not enough to prove malpractice; it is just the start. The client must also show that the attorney's mistakes caused the client's conviction or adverse result.
Contact an Attorney
Because the specific laws vary from state to state, it is best to speak with an attorney who is familiar with the laws in your area. It is also important to make sure that you file your legal claim before the statute of limitations (the time limit for taking legal action) runs out. Speak with a lawyer to learn your rights and obligations for bringing a legal malpractice lawsuit against your former criminal defense attorney.
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