Public Defender Vs. Lawyer Of My Choice: Which Is Better?
When faced with criminal charges, a person has many important decisions to make. He or she must consider whether to plead guilty or not guilty. He or she must decide whether to take a punishment recommended by a prosecutor and possibly the most important decision is whether he or she should avail of a lawyer’s service.
A criminal defendant generally has two main options: a public defender or a private criminal defense lawyer. There are pros and cons of either decision. The defendant must carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages before making a final decision.
1. Public Defender
A public defender is someone whom the court appoints to the case.
Advantages of Hiring a Public Defender
When defendants cannot afford to hire a private lawyer and who requests one to be appointed, a public defender is appointed. Therefore, the defendant does not have to pay for his or her lawyer, which can otherwise be very expensive.
Public defenders are widely familiar with different criminal cases and usually, have experience working on criminal cases. They work with prosecutors on a routine basis and may have a better relationship with them that can help get plea agreements through.
Disadvantages of Hiring a Public Defender
Public defenders are governmental employees. With this being said, they usually make much less than private lawyers. Since so many people are unable to afford to hire a lawyer for their criminal defense, they often have large caseloads. It is common for public defenders to be overworked and underpaid. These dynamics can sometimes contribute to the cause why they make mistakes with cases or not enough time for them to prepare for their case effectively.
Due to possibly juggling hundreds of cases at a time, a public defender may have limited amounts of time to actually meet with clients. Sometimes the public defender may only meet with a client a few minutes before he or she enters a plea. Additionally, public defenders may attempt to plead out as many cases as possible in order to handle the large caseload. This can keep a public defender from taking the time, energy and attention necessary to have formulated a legal defense that could have prevented or minimized the impact of a conviction.
Another disadvantage of having a public defender is that the client does not have the choice of a lawyer because the court appoints the lawyer. In the instance where the client is not satisfied with the public defender’s performance, he or she may find it hard to get a new public defender to represent him or her.
2. Private Lawyer
A private lawyer is someone whom the defendant or his or her family personally hires.
Disadvantages of Hiring a Private Lawyer
Commonly, the only disadvantage of hiring a private lawyer is having to pay for his or her services. Sometimes, this can be a substantial amount especially if the case filed is serious. The advantages however of hiring a private lawyer oftentimes outweigh the disadvantage of having to pay for the legal services he or she provides.
Advantages of Hiring a Private Lawyer
Private lawyers usually do not have nearly as many cases as public defenders. This allows them to have more one on one time with clients. This time can be used to get better acquainted with the defendant and to discover information that can aid the defense. This also allows a private lawyer to find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case that may help get the case dismissed or have the charges reduced.
Because the defendant is paying for all the legal services and other related costs, other resources that can help with the defense may be utilized. Expert witnesses may be hired to explain a key aspect of the case. Private laboratories may be used to test evidence that will be used against the defendant. Private investigators may help discover important evidence that will aid the defense. Private lawyers also have additional staff, associates, and paralegals that can help on the case.
In addition, private lawyers can be contacted in their office or by phone at any time while public defenders can be very difficult to get a hold of. When hiring a private lawyer, a criminal defendant can meet with a lawyer and determine whether he or she wants to hire the lawyer. The defendant will have the choice on whether which lawyer will represent him or her. Since private lawyers are not appointed by the court but are instead personally selected, they must rely on satisfied clients in order to maintain their business and reputation. This provides them a reason to do a better job.