Being charged with a crime is quite a heavy load to bear. You may think that it will be easy to prove your innocence, but that is not always the case. There are pros and cons to hiring a private attorney and pros and cons with using a public defender. Let’s see what advantages and disadvantages there are with these two options.
With every job that needs to be done, there is a professional assigned to do it best. The same applies in the courts. Both a private attorney and a public defender offer professional services for those charged with a crime. However, you may choose one over the other for a myriad of reasons.
All lawyers, regardless of their job, have years of education before they can cross the threshold into a courtroom. After graduating from college, all hopeful-lawyers go to law school. In law school, they don’t just study the laws and memorize them to pass the Bar exam; they practice defending the law. They are expected to know every angle, every article, and every possible penalty within a single penal code through reading about different cases.
Not only is their educational experience extremely valuable, but they have a firm grasp on how the politics of community, judge re-elections, district attorney re-elections, and the biased media can play a role in criminal cases.
A private attorney is hired directly by you. They usually own or work for a law firm and have the experience that has built their reputation. You can interview multiple private attorneys before deciding on the one that will work best for you.
A criminal court case takes time. A private attorney will not overbook their schedule with too many cases. They devote a large portion of their time getting to know the defendant, understanding the prosecution’s charges, investigating, and questioning eyewitnesses. They will take time to study similar cases and will conduct more thorough lab testing on material evidence.
A private attorney will have more and better resources at their disposal. Their bigger cash stash can get them better and quicker lab results, private investigators, and a larger staff that can assist with paralegal duties.
Private attorneys must build their reputations. They are self-employed and must find their clients and keep their clients happy to keep their business growing. Their reputation is incentive enough.
Private attorneys are some of the most expensive professionals you will come across. They charge by the hour, and the hours include the smallest things like time to write and send an email, print and sign a document, and even make a phone call. With all the time they devote to your case, you will be looking at hefty bills for a criminal court case.
A public defender is a lawyer appointed by the courts for people who cannot afford a private attorney but cannot defend themselves.
The obvious advantage of a public defense lawyer is that you do not have to pay for their services. They are a state employee and are paid by the state. You will never get a bill from them for the services received during the court process.
An additional pro to having a public defense lawyer is their familiarity with the courts, judges, prosecutors, and police department. This means they may have leverage when bargaining for a punishment.
Public defenders, in general, have a worse reputation. They oftentimes have a heavier caseload than private attorneys and are, thus, overwhelmed with cases. I can mean that they cannot devote as much time to each and every client as they need. Since they are government-funded, they also have limited funds available to do the investigations they need to evaluate a case properly.
A disadvantage of asking for a public defender is that you get whoever the court appoints. If you don’t get along with your assigned public defender, you can’t “trade” for another one. Also, some public defenders are known to “plead out” cases just to rush them through the courts. This means they convince a defendant to plead one way or another, accept the penalties, and close the case to lighten their caseload.
In a study of more than 5,200 court cases in Ohio, data revealed that a defendant is more likely to go to jail for their crime and serve a longer sentence if they choose a public defender. The average amount of time in prison was three years shorter for those with private attorneys.