Hiring a criminal lawyer vs public defender

When you’re accused of commiting a crime, it can be tempting to go with a public defender. No one wants to spend 10’s of thousands of dollars, hiring a private attorney. Quite frankly, it’s a huge expense. It can feel like a cheaper, and easier, route – going with a public defender. In the event you cannot afford an attorney, you can opt for a public defender. These are attorneys who are being paid by the court to represent clients. Often, they are attorneys who practice privately, and are doing this for additional money. In some cases, these are attorneys fresh out of law school – who want experience in the criminal justice system.

Most public defenders though, are extremely overworked. My firm, Raiser & Kenniff Criminal Defense, does both public defender work and private legal work. That means you can hire us privately — or you may run into us, as your public defender in court if you cannot hire a private attorney. Typically, we do “P.D.” or public defender work, in order to help supplement our income for the month – and to help some of our less experienced attorneys gain experience. What’s the main difference between hiring us privately or as a P.D.? Quite frankly, on paper none – you’re getting the same attorney, the same firm, who is now helping you. In reality though, it’s a huge difference. As a private attorney, whose charging you $200-$400 per hour, we can assign more staff, and more resources to your case.

The courts pay public defenders $50-$80 per hour. In addition, the amount of hours paid for is “cut off,” every month. Quite frankly, it’s financially tight. That means, even though we want to spend more time on your case – the amount of hours we will get paid for are limited. That means if we continue working past the amount of hours allowed – a Public Defender is working literally for free. In essence, he or she is losing money.

This is the main issue – public defenders don’t get paid nearly as much as private attorneys. That quite frankly means, public defenders will take on as many cases as possible in order to pay their bills. It means that your case gets less time, and less attention. It means the P.D. won’t go out of his way to find evidence or conduct a thorough investigation – he simply doesn’t have the time.

This one crucial issue is why you should always go with a private attorney, instead of a public defender.

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