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hiring a criminal lawyer vs public defender

Though criminal lawyers and public defenders sat for the same exams to become lawyers, a public defender isn’t always the option for your case. Take the following into consideration when deciding whether to hire a private attorney or go with a public defender.

The vast majority of defendants plead guilty without going to trial in return for a plea bargain. A plea bargain often consists of a reduced sentence or the dropping of certain charges. Even if you don’t go to trial, your lawyer will have to negotiate with the prosecution and the judge to achieve a plea bargain that satisfies the prosecution and benefits you. You want someone who can argue your case proficiently even if it never goes before a jury.

Since you get to decide whether your case goes to trial or not–i.e., whether you will plead guilty or not guilty–having a lawyer who can weigh the potential benefits and costs of a trial is absolutely vital. Unfortunately, the public defender system is overloaded in many states. Even a great lawyer might not be able to help their client properly if they have too many other clients demanding their attention. A private lawyer gives you the benefit of their time and dedication to your case because they aren’t strapped down by a clogged system. Public defenders are under pressure to resolve a case quickly more than anything else. This can result in a disadvantage to you, the client, even if you choose a plea bargain over a trial.

One benefit of a public defender is that they have a broad experience with different types of charges and defenses. However, there’s no guarantee that they can handle your case as expertly as a private lawyer who specializes in your kind of case. You’ve probably seen ads for many different lawyers specializing in everything from DUIs to medical malpractice suits. Each private lawyer you speak with will have a similar niche. Consulting a private lawyer is usually low-cost or free, and allows you the option of saying no if they don’t feel like a good fit. You can ask them if they have handled cases like yours before, or about their experience with criminal cases in general. Being able to “shop around” is a huge benefit of seeking a private attorney. It is very unlikely you will be able to change public defenders.

Now, the main issue around hiring a private attorney is the money involved. A tight budget is a valid reason to choose a public defender. If you have some wiggle room, you have another reason to “go shopping:” different lawyers have different payment scales. You can decide whether a higher cost is worth it–and don’t assume it won’t be. A private lawyer with more resources will have contacts with laboratories and expert witnesses that a public defender won’t have. It’s up to you to decide how much your time and livelihood is worth.

It’s also important to remember that public defenders are not inherently free of monetary costs to you, either. Sometimes, as part of a plea bargain or guilty sentence, the court will order you to pay a fee to your attorney. You may not even qualify for a public defender if you don’t collect Supplemental Security Income, make money above a certain level, or have a net equity of $2500 or more. This is one way the court tries to limit doling out public defenders. However, it all shows that you don’t have to be “rich” in order to hire a private attorney.

Choosing a private lawyer may require an initial time and monetary investment, but it’s an investment that can pay dividends into your future.

This article is from Fred Dahr, a trusted and well known Houston criminal lawyer.

When you’re dealing with a criminal lawsuit, you are probably finding that the entire process is rather expensive. To keep your head above water financially, you may be tempted to use the public defender offered to you rather than electing to hire a criminal attorney.

But what is it really like working with a public defender? Is a public defender the right choice for you?

While a public defender is the more cost-friendly option, the price that you paid will usually come forward during the time of trial. Although public defenders are licensed attorneys, you usually have a better chance of winning your case with your own criminal attorney.

Here are just some of the reasons why you should consider hiring a criminal attorney over using a public defender.

1. Freedom to choose your attorney.

When you use a public defender, the courts will assign one to your case. This means that it does not matter what kind of experience they have with cases like yours or how well you get along, they are your attorney.

But when you hire a criminal attorney, you get to make your own selection. You can interview with various lawyers to find a partnership that works well with you. The connection you have with your attorney will influence how well you can work together, the strategies that you come up with, and usually, the outcome of the case.

2. More dedicated time and attention.

A public defender will usually have a number of similar cases that they are working on and they will continue to take more and more cases as they come. This means that if you choose a public defender, your case will need to compete with other cases that the public defender has for attention and dedicated time. All to often, this means your case doesn’t get the attention it really needs.

Hiring a criminal lawyer will give you a designated amount of time for your case. When you choose to hire an attorney to work for you, they know that they have the time and resources to really give your case a hard look. And because you are paying for their time, you don’t need to worry about competing with other cases in the same way.

3. More investment from your attorneys.

To your public defender, you are just another case. Your name is in their pile of clients and most of the time, they don’t care enough to really get to know you. Instead, they come in for your meetings, discuss the basics of your case, and leave to move on to their next meeting with another client. When the day for trial comes, they want to get your case closed as quickly as possible.

If you want to win your case and adequately defend your side, a criminal attorney will give you the level of care that any lawsuit needs. You want your attorney to get to know you, to understand all the ins and outs of your case, and to really care that you succeed. When you hire an attorney, they become invested in helping you.

4. Motivation for Trial

A public defender will get new clients as they come in. Their record of winning or losing cases does not matter because they are not directly hired. This means that when they go in for your trial, they will be okay with either outcome. They are simply there to represent you because it is your right.

However, a private attorney cares about their reputation. Because they need to keep winning cases to keep getting new clients, they will put all their effort into winning your case for them. With the amount of work they spent on the case and their dedication to you, winning the case is just as important to them as it is to you.

If you’re facing a criminal lawsuit, your freedom is more important than cost. While a public defender is the cheaper option, you run the risk of losing your case. As each public defender will have a different strategy, level of care, and willingness to work with you and your case, it isn’t a risk you should be willing to take.

Hiring a criminal attorney to represent you in your criminal case will give you the attention and dedication that you need to win, restore your freedom, and allow you to return home. With the right private lawyer, you can rest assured that you have a team of legal experts doing everything they can to give strong representation. Through paying for your attorney, you can ensure you get along well with your representation, that you are getting the right amount of attention, and that they go into trial properly motivated.

This article is by Steve Raiser, a personal injury attorney in Los Angeles.

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