State v. Davis | On the Pitfalls of Sharing a Lawyer
Appellate Docket No.: A-2784-18T3
Decided July 21, 2020
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division reviewed whether there was ineffective counsel for a law student, representing a defendant under the Court rules, was also court appointed to represent a codefendant for the same matter.
In State v. Davis, Defendant and her mother were involved in a dispute with the residents of the first-floor apartment while trying to gain access to the second-floor apartment in a building with three apartments. They were initially charged with indictable crimes that were downgraded and sent back to the Special Remand Court where they were represented by the same private lawyer. The lawyer then stated on the record that he could not represent both defendants, choosing to continue representing defendant’s mother alone. The supervised law student was appointed to represent defendant. When the mother’s lawyer did not appear in court, the municipal court judge had the law student represent defendant’s mother as well as defendant. Both were charged in the same incident with the same charges, which involved assault, criminal mischief and defiant trespass. Defendant’s mother was acquitted of all charges while defendant was convicted of simple assault only.
Defendant appealed. The Appellate Division found that Defendants did not privately retain the law student, nor agree on the record to be jointly represented by him, nor were they informed on the record of the possible pitfalls of sharing a lawyer. Because a court cannot order the representation of codefendants by a single attorney, the Appellate division overturned the conviction and remanded for a new trial.
As you can see above, a court cannot appoint an attorney to represent a codefendant. There arises a great possibility of a failure to represent the true interests of a client, because the codefendants could have competing interests of blaming guilt on the other.
If you have been charged with any first degree crime, second degree crime, third degree crime, fourth degree crime, disorderly persons offense, municipal ordinance violation, or traffic ticket / DUI/DWI, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today. Failing to hire a defense attorney and putting your faith in a public defender could give you the same result as the defendant in this case!
At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court and municipal court for criminal matters like the present case. We vigorously defend our clients by fighting to ensure prosecutors, police, and even judges follow the law.
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