Court Appointed Attorney, Public Defender, or Hiring Your Own Lawyer – Does it Make a Difference?

Some defendants in a criminal or DUI case feel they cannot justify the cost of hiring their own attorney (or perhaps they simply cannot afford it), while others believe a lawyer appointed by the court or public defender will provide the same level of legal guidance and support a private attorney would. The truth? Well, that’s hard to say. While there are public defenders and court appointed lawyers who are capable and skilled, it’s often the limited resources they have available that make the difference in the outcome. Ultimately, by hiring an attorney those who have been charged with a crime or who are under investigation will experience a much better outcome. Why is this?

Unfortunately, public defenders and count appointed attorneys are overworked and underpaid. The fact that a public defender has 30 cases to work on in a day’s time coupled with inadequate pay means defendants may be allotted five minutes or so of the lawyer or defender’s time. Considering this, how much time will the public defender or court appointed lawyer be able to devote to investigating your case, examining the evidence, exploring potential legal options, or even taking a look at the dash cam if you were pulled over for DUI? Not much – and perhaps zero.

How can a court appointed attorney or public defender provide you with solid legal guidance and representation when he/she knows virtually nothing at all about you, or your case? It isn’t possible. This is why it is essential to work with a private attorney who has the time to sit down with you and discuss the case, who will return your calls, and who will develop a sound defense while fighting on your behalf all the way.

Some of the most common complaints we hear about public defenders and count appointed lawyers is that they aren’t properly prepared for a case. Given their packed schedules and limited resources, this isn’t surprising. Sadly for the defendant, vital aspects about a case or potential defenses being overlooked often impacts the outcome – and not in a good way.

Another concern for those who are appointed an attorney or public defender is that the attorneys seems determined to have the client plead guilty or no contest. While it isn’t always the case, all too often an attorney or public defender simply wants to walk the defendant through a plea bargain because it’s easier, takes less time, and he/she isn’t prepared to go to trial. Of course it could be the money factor again. To be honest, there are many private attorneys who prefer to walk clients through a plea deal as well and build up their clientele base, rather than thoroughly preparing a case to go to trial. Sad, but true. In the end, no matter what a court appointed attorney or public defender (or even a private lawyer you hire) recommends, the decision to plead guilty or no contest or take your case to trial is yours to make – not the attorney’s.

What if the court appointed attorney or public defender doesn’t believe your account of the events that led to you being charged with a crime? It makes no difference. A criminal defense attorney who’s passionate about his or her career and the criminal justice system is focused on helping you reach the best possible result, not on judging you.

Certainly an attorney appointed by the court is preferred over not having a lawyer to represent you, however in the majority of cases you can expect far better results by hiring your own attorney. Just as you would shop around if you were buying a new vehicle or wide screen television, do some research before your hire a criminal defense lawyer. Look for reviews, case results, just do your due diligence. By hiring an attorney who will give your case personal attention and who you feel comfortable with and can communicate with, you’ll be doing yourself a great favor.

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