“Sorry, can’t help, I’m broke.” Trying to scrape together the funds to defend yourself from criminal charges can make you want to give up. After yet another rejection from friends and family, you may resign yourself to going to prison.

Under the Sixth Amendment, everyone has the right to legal assistance when facing criminal charges. You can get this for free, provided you fall under the income limit. Yet, what if you fall outside that boundary? You are likely to be struggling financially, without having to add lawyer fees on top.

You have a few options if you cannot drum up the money from the people you know. Sell things — if you have something to sell. Take out a loan — if a bank will give you one. Neither of these is an easy decision. If you have a car, you and your family may depend upon it for getting to work. So while it may raise immediate funds, it may limit the work options available to you. If you take out a loan, you need to pay it back, which may require taking on even more hours, at a cost of time spent with your family.

However, the question is not whether can you afford to hire an attorney, it’s can you afford not to? 

If you are facing criminal charges, you may be looking at time behind bars. You are not going to earn any money when you are there, possibly for a long time. The prosecution will be licking their lips if you turn up in court without a lawyer. It is like sending your 10-year-old boy into play football with the pros, and not giving him any body armor.