If you’ve found yourself in the tough situation of being accused of a crime, it’s necessary to pay serious attention to who is going to represent you. Since representation is the legal right of every American resident that is facing jail time, you should have the option to have a public defender assigned to you or to select your own private attorney. If you have the resources to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you should definitely do so. Here’s why.
A Private Attorney Knows Your Case
When you’re looking for a lawyer to represent you, you can choose one that has experience in your specific type of case. Usually, an attorney or legal firm will have a website where they list their areas of experience. If you get handed to a public defender or court-appointed attorney, you’re stuck with whatever knowledge or experience that lawyer has–or doesn’t have–in your particular situation. The law code is known for its massive nuances–subject to the interpretation of lawyers and judges. A private attorney is more likely to understand the nuances and figure out a way to defend you properly.
A Private Attorney Has More Time
Public defenders are routinely swamped with at least twice the number of caseloads than the recommended amount. National standards limit attorneys to 150 felony cases per year, but public defenders often end up with 500, 800, or even more cases. One investigation by the New York Times found defenders with over 1,600 annual caseloads! With such a massive case overload, the amount of time a public defender has to spend with his clients may amount to only a few minutes just before trial. That means he may not have the time to do the investigation and research necessary to create a strong defense on your behalf. And when you’re facing a powerful prosecuting attorney, this could translate into bigger fines and longer jail sentences for you. If you want access to your lawyer throughout your case, you will be way more likely to get this with a private lawyer.
A Private Attorney Has Access to More Resources
Some public defenders have limited access to investigators, expert witnesses, DNA or chemical testing, and associates that can help them with your defense. A private lawyer, on the other hand, usually has a broad network of these kinds of resources that he can call on when needed.
You Can’t Fire a Public Defender
You can fire a private attorney. So if you feel that your lawyer hasn’t been doing his job or doesn’t seem to know your case as well as he should, you can end your working relationship with him and take your case to another more dedicated and skilled attorney. If you’ve got a public defender, you’re stuck with whatever level of competence and dedication he enacts. Additionally, a private attorney has competition and a reputation to protect, whereas a public defender has a job regardless if he defends you properly or not.
Getting an experienced criminal defense attorney will give you a running chance at exoneration or reduced charges. Relying on a public defender leaves your future in the hands of an often uncompromising court. This is not the time to dally with the winds of chance.