If you have been arrested and face criminal charges, then it is crucial to understand all your options. First and foremost, you will want to have an experienced attorney who can provide you with the best possible legal representation. As a defendant, you will have the option to hire a private, criminal attorney, or the court will appoint you a public defender.
The Differences Between a Public Defender and a Private Criminal Attorney
Public defenders and private criminal attorneys are both licensed to practice law. However, there are several differences between the two. If a person is not able to afford to retain a private criminal attorney, then a public defender can provide legal representation. With private criminal attorneys, an individual must pay for their services.
Another difference between a public defender and a private criminal attorney is the amount of cases they handle. Public defenders are often given a large number of cases every year, so it can be difficult for them to provide the attention that is needed to each on of their cases. According to former Attorney General Eric Holder, the indigent defense systems in the United States are “in a state of crisis.” Public attorneys are often overworked and are not able to properly prepare for a case. A private criminal attorney is retained by a client, so the lawyer is able to determine how many cases he or she will take on. Private criminal attorneys have far fewer cases then public defenders, so defendants who are able to hire a private criminal attorney will receive attention that those with a public defender may not receive.
Another difference between a public defender and a private criminal attorney is one is hired by the client and one is appointed by the court. For those who are appointed a public defender, they will not have the opportunity to choose who represents them. In many circumstances, if an individual is not happy with his or her public defender, then it will be nearly impossible to have another one assigned to the person’s case.
Since a defendant is paying for a private criminal attorney’s services, the attorney will have resources that a public defender will not have. Public defenders are on a strict budget, so they do not have the funds that are needed to build a strong case. Private criminal attorneys can attain witnesses who are experts to testify on behalf of their clients, and they can hire private laboratories to perform tests on materials that will be used in the case.
In most circumstances, a private criminal lawyer will have staff who can assist in the case. This may include a team of paralegals and legal assistants who have experience with legal defense cases. When it comes to additional staff, public defenders do not have the same resources to help establish a strong defensive case.
Why You Should Hire a Private Criminal Attorney
Although a public defender and private criminal attorney are able to provide defendants with legal representation, public defenders do not have nearly as many resources as private criminal attorneys. When you are facing incarceration, it is important to have a legal expert on your side who has the time and resources to properly handle your case.
It is also important to consider that you may not qualify to receive a public defender. According to the Sixth Amendment, everyone facing criminal charges will receive a fair trial and a public defender if they are not able to afford one. The “if” in this statement means that just because you want to have a public defender appointed to you does not mean you will get one. If an individual facing criminal charges wants to have a public defender appointed to him or her, they must qualify to receive help from a public defender. An individual will need to complete a screening process and will also need to have his or her finances reviewed. This can be an intrusive and time-consuming. Weeks could pass completing the screening process before a decision is made. As soon as you hire a private criminal attorney, he or she will begin working on your case. When you are facing criminal charges, every minute counts.
Although there are many skilled public defenders, they do not have the time to devote to every one of their cases. With their heavy caseload they are overworked, and there are times when public defenders are only able to devote hours to one case. When you hire a private criminal attorney, you will have the time, expertise, and devotion that you need to build a defensive case.
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.