The most important decision a criminal defendant can make is in choosing their legal representation. Defendants have two options, receive counsel from a court-appointed attorney or hire their own private attorney. If you are seeking legal representation for an upcoming court hearing, here are the pros and cons for public defenders and private attorneys.
One of the biggest upsides to going with a public defender is that it will be at no cost to the defendant. Public defenders are government employees whose salaries are paid by the taxpayer. Since public defenders are in the courts daily, they develop better relationships with prosecutors than private attorneys. Their experience negotiating a plea deal may result in a favorable outcome for the defendant.
Being a government employee who serves the public, these attorneys are often overworked and underpaid. Many criminal defendants are unable to pay for their own attorney and so many public defenders can see upwards to 300 cases per year. With such heavy caseloads, public defenders are generally less available to their clients. Many times, defendants may only get 5 minutes before their court hearing to meet with their attorney. Since the court appoints attorneys to those who cannot afford one, defendants also do not have a choice in who their public defender is.
A private defense attorney has the ability to spend a lot of one-on-one time with their clients because of a smaller caseload than public defenders. Clients are able to easily contact them by calling their offices and can speak to them at their own convenience. Because private attorneys are able to spend a greater amount of time preparing for court with their clients, they are able to build strong cases to prove innocence. Private attorneys also have access to resources such as hiring expert witnesses, private laboratory tests for evidence, and private investigators. These resources are harder to access for public defenders because of their limited budgets.
The biggest and probably the only disadvantage to hiring a private defense attorney would be their price. For those who are unable to pay lawyer fees, hiring a private attorney is not feasible. Attorneys usually have a fixed rate or hourly fee but are sometimes willing to negotiate with their clients.
If you have any questions regarding a criminal case, please call our office today to speak with an expert. Our legal professionals are here to help you and your loved ones.