Every individual has the right, under the Sixth Amendment, to a lawyer. The first thing you want to do when charged with a crime is to retain an attorney to defend you. There are two options: a public defender or a private attorney. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and it will take serious consideration about your situation to make the decision.
A public defender is an attorney who represents a defendant facing criminal charges that cannot afford a private attorney. The state of California employs attorneys that service the community as public defenders. They work with criminal cases every single day and have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the courtrooms.
When you opt for a public defender, you must meet certain qualifications to retain them. The courts want to make sure that your situation is such that you can’t afford a private attorney. Even if you do not meet the income requirements, you may still choose a public defender but may accrue charges you can handle with your income level. The low cost or no cost is the best pro of choosing a public defender.
An additional advantage of using a public defender is their relationship with court members, judges, and prosecutors.. Because they are in court most days, they build rapport with the prosecutors and ‘favor’ with judges. The relationships foster communication and can facilitate plea deals if that is advantageous to your case.
Of course, with anything free, there is usually a con or two. In the case of the public defender, you’ll find that they are extremely busy. There are many criminal cases handled by public defenders, and they do not have all the time they need to work every case that comes across their desk. As a result, defendants typically will not have a chance to go over everything in the case with the public defender before trial. In addition, they will likely try to convince defendants to go for a plea deal just to close the case and decrease penalties.
Private attorneys are well-versed in law and typically (although not always) have a focus on a particular type of law.
When you hire a private attorney, you will have a couple of benefits. Perhaps the best advantage of a private attorney is the amount of time they have to dedicate to your case. They will only take on a caseload that is commensurate with their time. If you call, they pick up. If you want them to meet you to review evidence or witness accounts, they will be there. With a lighter caseload than public defenders, they can give you their time.
Another advantage of a private attorney is money. Money can be used as a bargaining chip, and private attorneys will use their money to get evidence re-tested and re-evaluated in more expensive labs. They typically have better resources to use for their investigations, including access to private investigators. In some cases, they can get more information from law enforcement or eyewitnesses through special treatment.
Where there is incentive, you’ll find better employees. A private attorney is your employee. They have a business to run, and you, the client, are their opportunity to prove they have a good business. Because of this incentive, they will do everything they can to accommodate you and your case. They will fight hard and work long hours to make sure every piece of evidence is turned over multiple times and every eyewitness has told their story. They want you to spread the word about how great their service is and give recommendations to all your friends and family. Your victory is their success.
Private attorneys have one major con: cost. They are typically very expensive. Some charge by the hour, others charge by the case. The type and duration of the case will be how they measure charges. The simplest things, such as writing/sending an email or talking on the phone, will all add up on your bill. You will need a hefty sum of cash to afford a private attorney.
Many case studies show that a private attorney will get you the results you want. On average, it is found that defendants that hire a private attorney will have an average of three years shaved off their sentence. With a public defender, it is found that you are more likely to go to jail and often with more severe penalties. In conclusion, a private attorney will pay off for defendants facing criminal charges.