Public Defender or Private Attorney: What Should I Do? By Daniel Smith

Hiring a lawyer to represent you in a criminal matter can be one of the most important decisions you make in your life. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, the consequences of a criminal charge on your record, the hefty fines and possible jail time can change the course of your life.

Due to all of these variables it is important that you are informed about the lawyer that you choose. Often times individuals may not have the means or do not think they have the means to hire a private attorney and go with a public defender. While at times this may be the best choice there may be instances where hiring a private attorney is worth the money.

The Upside to a Public Defender:

  1. People who cannot afford an attorney will have legal representation.
  2. Often times Public Defenders know many of the prosecutors and have working relationships with them that may benefit you.
  3. Many Public Defenders are excellent attorneys.

The Downside to a Public Defender

  1. In order to qualify for a public defender you must make under a certain amount that is determined by the court. -If you make more than this amount you will not be provided a Public Defender but rather must represent yourself or hire a private attorney.
  2. You may have to pay for your Public Defender. -In California you will be asked to fill out a financial affidavit. If it is determined by the court that you can afford payment, you will be assigned an amount to pay and you must pay this amount.
  3. Public Defenders have large case loads. -Many Public Defenders have overwhelming case loads that do not allow for the personal attention you may want from your attorney.
  4. Public Defenders are not specialized in any field. -Public Defenders handle a vast array of case types and as such are not always privy to all the intricacies involved in defending DUI cases or other types of criminal charges.
  5. You cannot choose or usually fire your public defender -Once you are assigned your public defender you cannot usually switch or change public defenders.

The Upside to hiring a Private Attorney:

  1. You can choose from a vast array of private attorneys. -You can hire the attorney you like and fire any attorney you may not like. You have the power to choose your representation.
  2. Less cases and client means more time on you. -Private attorneys can pick and choose the cases they take on. This means they have more time to spend on each client.
  3. Private Attorneys specialize in their areas of law. -Private attorneys take the time to educate themselves to specialize in areas of the law. Specifically DUI attorneys are always attending classes and seminars to stay abreast of the new law.
  4. Private attorneys can be affordable. -Many private attorneys take payments plans and will accept cases with little to no money down.

The Downside to hiring a Private Attorney:

    1. Private attorneys can be expensive -Even though Private Attorneys often take payment plans, they may be lengthy and continue after your case is resolved. 2. Hiring a private attorney does not come with a guarantee. -Even if you pay for the best private defense attorney around they cannot guarantee an outcome for you.

If you would like a free and confidential consultation with an experienced attorney, please call our office at (619)258-8888.