What Exactly are Public Defenders?
There is a longstanding debate between which type of counsel is more effective, public defenders or private defense attorneys. Public defenders are attorneys that are appointed to a defendant if they cannot afford their own representation. On the other hand, private attorneys are hired directly by a defendant to represent them during their legal troubles.
A public defender can only be used in cases when a defendant cannot afford a private criminal defense attorney. The qualifications of using a public defender are dependent on the defendant’s income.
Public defenders are typically characterized as over-worked and underpaid government employees who don’t give individual cases enough attention. This notion comes from the fact that public defenders cannot refuse to take a case, unlike private attorneys, so they commonly are working on a multitude of cases simultaneously.
The majority of the cases take on a “meet and plead” strategy, which is not the best. However, we cannot forget that public defenders opt to work in this specific field of law and share a passion for representing those who don’t have the funds to represent themselves.
It’s true that the majority of public defenders are over-worked and underpaid, after all, they are subjugated to the same budget cuts as any government employee, but it might not be true that they don’t give sufficient attention to individual cases. Many public defenders work in large offices filled with other attorneys where they can share ideas and seek insight while building a defendant’s case.
Public defenders often times have close relationships with district attorneys and judges because they work together so often, these relationships are typically beneficial for a defendant.
Why Private Defense Lawyers are Better
Now to the private attorney side of the debate. As previously noted, private criminal defense attorneys are hired by a defendant, or a defendant’s family to work with them through the case. Private defense attorneys have the ability to refuse a case if they feel like the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against a defendant.
The majority of private attorneys have more experience and are former district attorneys, or public defenders themselves. Because of their prior experience in the court system, criminal defense attorneys also have a close relationships with district attorneys and judges that are beneficial for a defendant. In addition, private attorneys have access to an expansive network of private investigators and expert witnesses that help build a defendant’s case.
Because private attorneys have significantly smaller case loads they are considerably easier to contact regarding a defendant’s case. This is arguably the greatest benefit of seeking private counsel, when a defendant hires a private attorney they stay in-the-loop if regards to the happenings of their case and are not left in the dark. A defendant who seeks private counsel is not subjugated to court room surprises and can have peace of mind in troubling times. On the other hand, the majority of public defenders can only be contacted on a defendant’s specific court date.
The debate as to whether a public defender is as effective as a private attorney is one that will continue to be discussed as long as people continue to commit crimes and need counsel. Both sides of the debate are passionate about their stance as are the attorneys who work on either side. It’s important to remember that each case is different and each attorney is different, so do the mandatory research before settling with any attorney.