Public Defender Vs. Private Lawyer: Which One Can Best Represent You?

Facing criminal charges is a daunting position for anyone to be in, but it can be even harder when you've never faced them before. The first issue you need to handle in this position is choosing your legal counsel. It may seem like a good idea to save money by opting for a court-appointed public defender to represent you. However, it's a good idea to know how these defenders can fall short when compared to private attorneys before you make your final decision.

Choose Who Defends Your Case

When a public defender is appointed by the court, the defendant in the case actually has no say in who they get as their representative. Even if you feel your public defender is incompetent or you just don't like them, you usually won't be able to request a different one. This can seriously weaken your case if, for example, your assigned public defender has no experience in defending clients charged with crimes similar to your alleged ones.

On top of this, public defenders work for the courts. True, they represent you, but after enough time working for the same court, they may have an incentive not to push too hard for a defendant if it means risking a friendly relationship with the judge or other court officials. They also are not as highly paid as their private counterparts for the enormous number of cases they take on, meaning they have less time and energy to devote to your case than a private lawyer might.

Work With Only One Attorney

In some courts, you won't be appointed a single public defender. Instead, you'll have to go through several in order to build your case, each one specializing in a different aspect of the process. For some defendants this approach may be beneficial, but the system breaks down when the different public defenders do not communicate well with one another. As a result, you could find yourself answering the same questions over and over and being represented by someone who lacks pertinent information with regards to your case.

Hiring a private attorney, on the other hand, allows you to work one-on-one with an expert at all times. This not only cuts down on repeated interview questions, but also helps your lawyer get a better grasp of who you are and where you come from as a human being. This in turn allows your counsel to portray you more sympathetically in the court, which can go a long way towards convincing the judge that you are innocent or that you deserve a lax sentence.

Take Advantage Of Local Court Experience

Public defenders don't tend to stay in one court for more than a few years at a time. They aren't paid enough to skip out on a potential raise if another court is offering, so they tend to move on to greener pastures. Plus, wide-ranging experience looks better on a public defender's resume than working for the same court for their entire career. Unfortunately for you, this can often mean that your public defender isn't all that familiar with the courts and their judges in your area.

Local criminal defense lawyers, on the other hand, almost always have many years of experience defending cases in front of the same local judges and in the same local courts in which your hearing or trial will be held. They tend to be familiar with the biases of local juries, and they know which arguments in your favor will be most effective. Local legal counsel can often provide you with a detailed review of what to expect throughout your trial process, which can help prepare you for the days and maybe months to come.

If you have to choose between a public defender or an attorney, make sure your decision is informed. Criminal charges can change your life entirely, and you deserve the best representation possible when you step into the court room. 

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