Public Defender vs Private Attorney
Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was recently arrested for a driving under the influence (DUI). I understand that I have the right to legal representation and if I cannot afford a criminal defense lawyer the state can appoint one for me. I have heard that public defenders are overworked and may not always offer the best legal defense for a DUI charge. Assuming I meet the financial requirements, will a public defender be good enough to help me defend my case or should I try to hire my own private lawyer?”
What is a public defender?
A public defender is an attorney, appointed by the state, to defend clients who do not have sufficient means to hire their own criminal defense lawyers. Although most public defenders are very passionate about their jobs and are determined to help as many clients as possible, it is true that many are overworked and have an astonishingly high case load.
When should I hire a private lawyer?
With that in mind, there are some defendant’s who may not be well represented by a public defender. For example, if you have a very complicated DUI case, you need help at your DMV administrative hearing, you expect regular client meetings, or you plan to fight the DUI case and potentially take it to trial, you will need to scrape together the funds to hire a private DUI lawyer.
When is a public defender a sufficient choice?
There are defendants, however, who will either have to use a public defender or who may be fine if this is their only choice. For example, you may have to use the public defender if you absolutely do not have the funds to hire a private DUI lawyer. You may also be adequately served by a public defender if you intend to seek a plea agreement or plead guilty to the DUI or you have a simple DUI that will be easy to defend.
Have to hire public defender...do not despair
If you are forced to rely on a public defender it's important not to despair. In fact, many public defenders are very passionate about their work. In many cases, they are a part of a very competitive staff and have worked for years gaining legal expertise through strong mentoring relationships and very good training programs. In fact, in many large cities the public defender offices are highly respected, providing legal services easily matching those offered by private lawyers.
Another benefit for some defendants will be the familiarity the public defender has with the court, including the judges and prosecutors. Many public defenders are able to use their relationships with other legal officers to help their clients, although some legal experts claim these same relationships may make some public defenders hesitant to “rock the boat.”
Private lawyers and doing due diligence
We have mainly discussed the positive attributes of public defenders. Even with everything mentioned above, however, most legal experts recommend hiring a private DUI lawyer- if at all possible.
Before making any type of decision, however, it’s important to do due diligence. As with any profession there are good private lawyers and bad private lawyers. If you do decide to hire a private DUI lawyer it’s important to do interviews, seek recommendations, and not focus solely on the price of legal services.
Hiring a private DUI lawyer with the lowest fee may not get you the best DUI defense. In fact, many low priced private DUI lawyers are forced to carry high caseloads, just like their public defender counterparts. Their fees may also be low because their services are not in demand.
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