Pros and Cons of Using a Public Defender
When you are facing criminal charges, you need and have the right to legal representation during your case. Despite the right to have legal counsel, you may not be able to afford a private attorney to handle your case. You may be wondering how do I get a public defender? Here’s a list of the pros and cons of using a government-sponsored public defender versus a private attorney.
While a private lawyer may not have the caseload that a public defender has, the public defender often has more experience in these cases than the private attorney. Since public defenders work on many criminal cases, they often know many of the judges and prosecuting attorneys. The public defender may have an easier time working with the prosecuting attorney on a favorable deal than a private attorney. These relationships can aid the defendant. Be advised that using a public defender may not result in seeing the same attorney each time.
Private attorneys charge by the hour a certain dollar amount. They charge for every meeting, phone call, email or court appearance. A public defender, on the other hand, is paid for by the government, not the client. So the public defender may have more cases, but you as their client do not have a financial obligation to them. To qualify for a public defender, you must show that you do not have the ability to pay for a private attorney based on your income and expenses.
Unfortunately, a huge downside to using a public defender over a private attorney is the time and client communication. Private attorneys have more time to spend communicating with their clients. The attorney is available via phone and email many times throughout the day to answer questions and ease concerns. Public defenders are often short on time due to handling so many cases. Therefore, many public defenders do not communicate as often or as much detail with their clients. A public defender may lean towards getting a plea deal early to help lessen their own caseload but not always.
Having a private attorney comes with a lot of advantages for increased communication, personalized service, and familiarity. But private attorneys are also expensive and may not have as much experience with your type of criminal case. Public defenders are an option for those unable to afford a private attorney. Qualifying for a public defender allows you to have legal representation often as good as a private attorney during your criminal proceedings.