When a person is arrested and facing criminal charges, they need to make important decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. They will need to decide if they will plead guilty or not guilty. They may need to decide if it is better to take the punishment offered by a prosecutor or risk going to trial. They must also decide what type of lawyer they want to help them through this process. Should they hire a private attorney or should they be satisfied with a public defender? There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
A public defender is appointed to represent individuals who are not able to afford to pay for a private lawyer. They also represent defendants who specifically request to be represented by a public defender. There is no cost for this legal representation. A public defender is very familiar with the criminal court system and criminal cases. They will have a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to handling criminal cases. A public defender will have an established working relationship with prosecutors and judges. This will enable them to get their motions as well as plea agreements and other legal requests through the system faster.
It’s important to keep in mind that public defenders work for the government. They make substantially less money than an attorney working in private practice. Many people can’t afford to pay the price associated with hiring a private lawyer. Most public defenders have very large workloads and are underpaid for their work. This can create situations where public defenders often make mistakes because they may not have enough time to spend working each of their cases.
A private lawyer will not be working as many cases as a public defender. This enables them the opportunity to spend more time discussing a case with their clients. During these discussions, a private lawyer can get to know the defendant. They are able to ask important questions that could provide valuable information that will help a client’s case. In some situations, this information can help a lawyer get their client’s sentence reduced or even dismissed.
When a person is able to pay for legal services, and the costs associated with their defense, they will have more resources available to them. It may be possible to hire an expert witness to explain certain aspects of the case. Evidence may be able to be tested at private laboratories. A private investigator may be able to discover key evidence and witnesses. A private lawyer will have more support staff available to them.
Hiring a private attorney can be expensive. They will be charging a client based on their legal reputation. The cases the take are limited. A private attorney will not work on a case that doesn’t provide sufficient payment. No matter how much money is paid to a private attorney, they can’t guarantee the outcome of any case.
Because of their huge caseloads, a Public Defender must deal with their clients as quickly as possible. Most Public Defenders are as frustrated by their inability to spend time with their clients as are the clients. It’s common for Public Defenders to be passionate when advocating for their clients. It is also common for a Public Defender to be overwhelmed by their case load and unable to provide the level of legal work they would like to provide. A private attorney will be able to maintain a high level of communications with their client. They will keep them informed of how their case is progressing. They have a responsibility to make certain their client’s money is being spent wisely to produce the best possible legal results.
A public defender will have enough experience to anticipate the standard offers their client will be given by the court. They will know how a prosecutor or judge will react to specific legal motions such as to dismiss the case, have a bench trial and more. A private attorney will be able to gather evidence for a case. This often puts them in a better position to negotiate a deal for their client.
Public Defenders are usually involved in a large number of trials. A private attorney will be not be involved in as many trials because they are unlikely to take a marginal case. A trial is expensive. This only happens with a private attorney when their client is motivated to prove their innocence. A private attorney is very motivated to protect their reputation in the legal world. An experienced private attorney will carefully review all of the potential risks and benefits for their client of going to trial. They will try to not set their client’s expectations too high.
A judge will assign a Public Defender if a person is facing possible incarceration. The judge must also find the defendant unable to pay for a private attorney on their own before being assigned a Public Defender.
This article is by Michael Kotik, a premier Philadelphia criminal attorney.