Public Defender vs. Private Attorney (How to Decide Which Option is Best for You)
If you’ve ever watched Law and Order (or any show that involves criminals), then you’ve heard the phrase, “if you cannot afford an attorney then one will be provided for you” or a variation of that. What this means is that if you don’t have a personal attorney, or don’t want to/can’t pay to hire one, then the state will pay for one for you. These attorneys are known as public defenders.
Let’s say you can afford a private attorney, but you’d rather save the money and go with a public defender,
To help you decide which route to go, here are the pros and cons of Public Defenders versus Private Attorneys
Public Defender: Pros
Free of cost: The reason why public defenders are often used over a private attorney is simply the fact that they are free. It’s a right that is outlined in the miranda rights, and it is wise to take advantage of the free service if you cannot afford one on your own.
Strong relationships with judges and prosecutors: You can actually look at this from the perspective of both a pro and a con. This relationship your public attorney will have with the judges and prosecutors from working with them each day will help you when the time comes for a plea deal. However, if you don’t have any intention in a pleading guilty and taking a plea deal, then it can come back to bite you, as the public defender may try and convince you that it is the best course of action to take.
Caseload: The number of public defenders isn’t large enough to meet the demand of those who require this service each day. As a result, public defenders tend to be overworked. Reports over the past decade from the Department of Justice have shown that 73% of county public defender offices exceeded the maximum recommended limit of cases. This is an unfortunate consequence of the current state of the U.S. justice system.
Private Attorney: Pros
Availability: A private attorney will have time to meet with you before the day of your hearing, and you’ll be able to go over important information that can help your side of the case. Along with this, they will have a team of assistants who will also be putting in work to see what can be done to help you either win your case or get a strong plea deal.
Additional resources for defense: If you choose to pay for your legal services, your lawyer can use expert witnesses, as well as private laboratories to help you win your case.
Cost: As mentioned, the cost of hiring a private attorney can be fairly high. It’s hard to put an accurate estimate, as it will depend on the type of charges, as well as the expected amount of work that the lawyer forecasts they will undertake.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to each option, and when it comes to making a decision, what it usually comes down to is cost. While some correlate better odds of winning your case, studies in the past have shown that public defenders are just as effective as private attorneys, despite their grueling schedules. If you can afford a private attorney, it is recommended, and even expected by the state, that you will pay for one. If you cannot, then a public defender
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