Should I hire a public defender for my criminal case? 52 Answers as of July 11, 2013

Should I hire a public defender for my criminal case? Why would I need to hire a private attorney?

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Law Offices of Scott Tibbedeaux
Law Offices of Scott Tibbedeaux | Scott Tibbedeaux
Public defenders are appointed whereas private lawyers are hired. Public defenders tend to have much heavier caseloads than that of private attorneys. Private attorneys can pay more attention to cases because of this difference in caseload.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/21/2011
Gonzalez Law Associates P.C.
Gonzalez Law Associates P.C. | Carlos Gonzalez
You don't hire public defenders, they're appointed to you by the court. If you can afford a private attorney that is virtually almost always best because they can provide greater attention to your case. If you'd like to discuss our fees and representation further give us a call.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 6/20/2011
Law Offices of Phil Hache
Law Offices of Phil Hache | Phil Hache
You are not required to hire a private attorney for your case. There are advantages to having private counsel. For starters, generally speaking a privately retained attorney will be able to spend more time with you handling your case, communicating with you about your case, etc. Public defenders have countless amounts of new cases each day, where has Private attorneys have a much lighter case load. Of course, you will want to hire a criminal defense attorney who has time and is willing to keep you updated about the progress of your case, answer questions you may have along the way, etc.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/20/2011
Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
There are some great Public Defenders out there. There are also some not so great. Public Defenders are also over worked and have a great number of cases at one time. Most private attorneys have less case. However, you need to find a good one and one you feel a connection with. Check out the attorneys that have free consultation and see how you feel.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/20/2011
Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law
Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law | Thomas J. Tomko
Its not a matter of choice. If you are appointed an attorney, its because you can not afford one. You still pay for a Court appointed attorney. It will be ordered by the Court. When you hire your own attorney, you have a choice of who to hire, and can hire someone with more experience and expertise for your case. When you are appointed an attorney, you do not have a choice I hope that this was helpful
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 6/20/2011
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    That really depends on many different issues. Are you charged with a felony or a misdemeanor? What court are you in? The quality of public defender varies greatly from one county to another. For example, the public defense agencies in Seattle are excellent. In some other counties, you might as well roll over and plead guilty. In general, private attorneys are more skilled and have more resources available to aid in your defense. Unless you can give me more information, that's about all I can tell you.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    LynchLaw
    LynchLaw | Michael Thomas Lynch
    This type of question comes up often. When should a defendant, who can qualify for the Public Defender, use private counsel instead? The Public Defenders office is flush with very experienced and dedicated attorneys. The major drawback to using a Public Defender is time. They don't have enough of it. Most Public Defenders offices are grossly under staffed. They often only have mere minutes to work each case. For the defendants who have multiple witnesses to track down, or investigation to be done, or for those who actually what to know what their options are and have their attorney explain what is happening to them and why, are best advised to go with a private attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre
    Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre | Jonathan T. Sarre
    This is one of those questions that require more detail to properly answer, but I generally believe that most people, if they had their choice in the matter would want to hire an attorney on the open market rather than get a public defender. This isn't to say that PDs are all bad (or that private attorneys are all good, since I do know some PDs whom I would allow to represent me in a heartbeat and I know some private attorneys who border on incompetent). I think what people most like about hiring their own lawyer is that they know if they call, they'll at least get a call back. Unfortunately, the same can't always be said for PDs, mostly because their caseloads are huge and they spend a ton if time in court. I think you need to look at what you want to accomplish in this case. For example, if you just want to plea out quickly maybe you can do that just as easy with a public defender, you have to decide that though. Also you need to weigh what the consequences of this case is for you; if you might be looking at a prison sentence or losing your driver's license, maybe it would help you to have more individualized attention which you get with your own attorney. Finally there are finances, can you afford a lawyer? That's probably what it all comes down to in the end: money.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    Public defenders are attorneys appointed by the court, you do not hire them. They are appointed to those who do not have the financial resources to retain their own attorney. You may apply for one if you feel you are indigent. Otherwise, you should consult with an attorney to determine the need to retain his services.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    You should have an attorney, regardless of ability to pay. If you can afford private counsel, you wont qualify for the Public Defender. They are only appointed to represent the indigent, and paid by our tax dollars. When arrested or charged with any crime, the proper questions are, can any evidence obtained in a search or confession be used against you, and can you be convicted, and what can you do? Raise all possible defenses with whatever admissible and credible witnesses, evidence and facts are available for legal arguments, for evidence suppression or other motions, or at trial. Not exactly a do it yourself project in court for someone who does not know how to effectively represent himself against a professional prosecutor intending to convict and jail you. If you don't know how to do these things effectively, then hire an attorney that does, who will try to get a dismissal, diversion, reduction or other decent outcome through plea bargain, or take it to trial if appropriate. If serious about hiring counsel to help you in this, and if this is in SoCal courts, feel free to contact me.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Bloom Legal, LLC
    Bloom Legal, LLC | Seth J. Bloom
    You should hire the best defense counsel you can afford. If this happens to be a public defender then you should ask the court to appoint one to your case. While any attorney assigned to your case will work to assist you, public defenders often have overwhelming caseloads and large numbers of clients which can make it difficult for them to provide the sort of personalized attention to detail and availability that private counsel may. You should consider the severity of the potential charges and sentencing you face as well as your ability to afford an attorney in your decision to hire private counsel or to have the court appoint a public defender to your case. If you are seeking legal representation in this matter in Louisiana, we invite you to contact our firm at the information on this page.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    McWhirter Law Firm
    McWhirter Law Firm | Barry McWhirter
    You don't hire a public defender. Public defender's are appointed to represent indigent defendants. Many people are concerned that the public defenders are too busy, because of their large case loads, to be able to pay the proper attention to their case. If that is your concern, then you may prefer to hire a private attorney. If you can afford to hire a private attorney, however, the court will not appoint you a public defender. You will be required to hire a private attorney or represent yourself.
    Answer Applies to: Tennessee
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Subin
    Law Office of Andrew Subin | Andrew Subin
    What type of case is it?
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/11/2013
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    The question is not whether you should have a public defender for a criminal charge or a private attorney for a criminal case; it is what is the reputation for being a good attorney for each. I would rather have a good attorney who is a public defender over a bad private attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law | Jonathan S. Willett
    Public Defenders can be good or bad just like anyone else. The reason to use a public defender is that it is free. The reason to hire your own lawyer is that you will know better what you are getting and will receive much more personal attention.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
    Public defenders can't be hired. They are appointed by the court where the defendant can prove he can' t afford to hire a private lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
    You don't hire a PD in Missouri; they are appointed if the Court believes that you cannot afford an attorney. The PDs in Missouri are very good, but they have a huge caseload so they don't have much time. They often have a caseload of 100 or more clients whereas I for example never carry more than 30 criminal cases as a time. It is a matter of how much attention your case needs.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
    Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
    Generally it depends upon what you are charged with and whether you are going to negotiate plea bargain or go to trial, among other factors . If the matter is not that serious you may do fine with a public defender, but if the charges are serious or you want to go to trial you may do better with a private attorney.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Pontrello Law
    Pontrello Law | William Pontrello
    Public defenders are for destitute without money, you must attest indigence before you are entitled to a pd. False attesting could lead to a perjury charge.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly | Brendan M. Kelly
    You have to not be able to afford an attorney to have a public defender. The main difference is a court appointed attorney has much less time to actively work on your case and may not be able to give your case the full attention it desires. Both are lawyers and a lot of times the public defender is able to get very good results. Like private attorneys, some public defenders are very good and some not so good.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC | Jacob Peter Sartz IV
    If you retain an attorney privately, you have more control over selecting who you want to work with. If you elect to have a public defender represent you, you will most likely be assigned an attorney if one is available and in accordance with the policies of the court or public defender's office. Occasionally, there are personality conflicts or other matters that arise during the process. Some people feel more secure if they are the ones who are ultimately choosing and retaining their attorney. Most attorneys provide free initial consultations. If you cannot afford to retain an attorney, the court may appoint an attorney to represent you at the public's expense.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    In Georgia, technically, a defendant does not hire a public defender. If you cannot afford to retain a criminal defense attorney, and if you qualify, a public defender may be assigned to you. You don't get to select one. Also, some believe that many public defenders, most of whom are good attorneys, are simply overworked with a lot of cases to handle. Finally, if you can retain a lawyer, then you may, if you can afford it, retain some of the best, most experienced criminal lawyers. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    You don't hire a public defender.They are appointed or assigned to you by the court if you are unable to afford your own attorney. I always suggest a private attorney, but, hey, I am one, so I have an interest in being hired. On the other hand, when a private attorney takes your case on, they have a greater incentive to work harder because when they win your case,it often leads to referrals to other people because you were so pleased with the outcome. Public defenders don't get such reputations since they have to represent anyone and everyone who is assigned to them and they often have a huge case load, so they can't give you as much personalized time to discuss your case with them as a private attorney. It goes back to the old adage "How much justice can you afford." I don't like that sound of that, but sometimes it is true.Now it's up to you to decide what to do. I would hire a private attorney if it was me, but then again, I am a private attorney. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint the public defender at no charge. If you can afford an attorney you should retain our office.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    If you are indigent, you would qualify for a public defender. Ask the court to assign you one when you appear in front of the judge, if you qualify for his services, you need not pay any money. If you wish private counsel, you will need some serious money, if the case is a felony, less if only a misdemeanor, except in the case of some misdemeanors, such as domestic battery and DUI, which will cost you serious cash, also.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Frances R. Johnson
    Frances R. Johnson | Frances R. Johnson
    You don't hire public defenders; they are appointed (if there are public defenders in your county/city) if you financially so qualify. Do you mean hire a former public defender? In terms of a public defender v. a private attorney, if you have sufficient funds to hire your own attorney, you most likely won't qualify for a public defender and will have to hire a private attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    You cannot hire a public defender. A public defender would be appointed to represent you by the Court and paid by the Court, however, you may be required to reimburse the Court for the expense. You also have the right to hire an attorney of your choice to represent you. Obviously, if you hire an attorney, you will have to pay the attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    A public defendant is appointed to represent you at no charge if you are poor. So, if you qualify, then you can get free legal representation. Is being represented by a hired attorney better than being represented by an appointed one? Maybe. With a hired attorney you enter into a retainer agreement and you should be told exactly what you're getting . and what you're not. With a hired attorney my experience is that there is less communication between the attorney and defendant. But, that's not always true. There are some great public defenders out there that really know their stuff.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Harrison & Harrison
    Harrison & Harrison | Samuel Harrison
    You don't "hire" a public defender. A public defender is appointed to represent someone that cannot afford to hire a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/20/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    You dont hire a public defender, you are appointed one by the court if you are indigent.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    You don't hire a public defender, they are assigned to represent you if you are indigent.If it is a simple charge like possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct, or having an open container of alcohol you can use a public defender. For any other charges you should retain an experienced criminal attorney if you can afford the fee. He will be in the best position to get the best results possible under the circumstances. You want to avoid a criminal record which can hurt your chances of getting a good job for the rest of your life.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    The Chastaine Law Office
    The Chastaine Law Office | Michael Chastaine
    Like all attorneys, there are both good and bad public defenders. Hiring a private attorney is no guarantee of a better result. However when you hire an attorney you get to pick who represents you rather then having a person assigned.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    The Law Office of Lewis R. Rosenblum
    The Law Office of Lewis R. Rosenblum | Lewis Rosenblum
    Public defender's can do a good job on a case. The only problem is you don't get to pick the public defender you want and oftentimes they are extremely overworked and cannot provide the kind of service you might want. I have a great deal of respect for Public Defender's and you can always start out with them and if its not working out you can then go and hire your own lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation
    Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation | Paul Wallin
    You never "hire" a public defender. The public defender services is reserved only for those persons that are too poor to retain a private criminal defense attorney. It is always advisable to retain a private lawyer because a private lawyer can devote much more time to your case. Due to current economic conditions the public defenders in most parts of California are overwhelmed with cases and it is more difficult to get sufficient time with a public defender. Every day our law firm receives call from clients who want to retain us because they are very unhappy of the representation they are receiving from the public defender. Finally, per Penal Code Section 987.2 if you receive the public defender the court must conduct a hearing to determine how much money, if any you must pay back to the county for using a public defender.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Bird & Van Dyke, Inc.
    Bird & Van Dyke, Inc. | Mary Ann Bird
    You cannot 'hire' a public defender. The court will appoint one to represent you if you are indigent and criminally accused.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Gregory Casale Attorney at Law
    Gregory Casale Attorney at Law | Gregory Casale
    There is no guarantee that a private attorney will be any better than a public attorney. However, you can hire any attorney that you want that you can afford. With public counsel, you have no choice. The court appoints one to represent you. You may get an excellent lawyer who loves to represent the underprivileged. Then again, you could get one who means well, but just has too many assigned cases to put the time and effort into each one the he or she should. Or, you could get the new lawyer, fresh out of law school, who has never tried a case in his or her life. The advantage with private counsel is that you select who you want. You meet with them, discuss your case with them and if you are not satisfied, you can hire someone else. With public counsel you are rolling the dice. You may get lucky, you may not. I guess it's up to you how important your case is to you and how much of a risk you are willing to take on your lawyer. If you do want to discuss your case with me, as a private attorney, you can reach me at the telephone numbers below. There is no fee for the telephone consultation.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Michael R. Nack, Attorney at Law
    Michael R. Nack, Attorney at Law | Michael R. Nack
    You don't "hire" a public defender one is appointed to represent you if you can not afford a private attorney. Most people believe that a private attorney will be able to give your case more time and more personal attention than a public defender would. If I were you, I would hire a private attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger | James A Schoenberger
    You don't hire public defenders. They are court appointed for defendants without the means to hire a lawyer. Most public defenders are really good attorneys and all they do is criminal law. Sometimes they are overloaded with cases and cannot devote as much time to an individual case as would a private attorney. If you hire a private attorney, make sure that criminal law is a significant part of their practice.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    Public Defenders are appointed by the Court for persons who are indigent and cannot afford to hire an attorney and have a criminal charge that may involve substantial jail time. A private retained attorney is someone who you hire and pay to represent you. When you rely on a court appointed attorney you have no say in the attorney who represents you and you may not know their experience and qualifications.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Van Ness Law Group
    Van Ness Law Group | Varinia Van Ness
    You can't hire a public defender. They are only court appointed to indigent defendants. If you have too much income, the judge will not give you a free lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    Public defenders are not hired. A public defender is appointed by the court Judge to represent a defendant if the defendant qualifies financially for that appointment.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer | Cynthia Henley
    Public defenders are not for hire. They are appointed to represent you free of charge if you are indigent and qualify for an appointed attorney. Private attorneys are those who do not work for the public defenders office and they can be hired to represent people charged with criminal offense. Some times courts must appoint private attorneys if there is a conflict of interest between co-defendants in case and the public defenders office represents one co-defendant. (In some jurisdictions such as Harris County, Texas, there are appointed lawyers who are independent lawyers who are appointed to represent indigent people but who do not work together in an office.)
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    It is always in the best interest of the client to hire the best possible attorney. Hiring the right attorney means the world in criminal defense cases. Hire the best attorney that can help you with your case. I recommend a private attorney. I have had many clients come to me that were disappointed in their public defender but every attorney is different. Private attorneys are often much more affordable than people assume.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    First of all, you don't "hire" a public defender. They are appointed to defend you by the courts if you request one and you qualify for their assistance. You can always retain private counsel if you wish. Some people feel better about private counsel thinking that they are better, more experienced, and try harder. I can tell you that is not the case. Almost all attorneys that are on the court-appointed list are also in private criminal defense practice, myself included. I haven't seen a wide discrepancy in terms of ability and effort between private counsel as opposed to court-appointed. I know I treat each case the same and my work level and work product is the same no matter who is footing the bill. I hope this helped to answer your question.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Attorney at Law
    Attorney at Law | Steven C. Bullock
    A public defender is actually appointed to your case upon a claim of indigency (that is you cannot afford an attorney). There are many issues to consider in hiring an attorney which is an important decision.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC | Raymond J. Savoy
    A public defender usually carries a very heavy caseload and tries to resolve them as quickly as possible. A private attorney will thoroughly evaluate your case and assist in getting you the best possible result.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    First of all, you cannot "hire" a PD. Only the Judge can appoint one for you after reviewing your asset declaration, which must be done under oath. Secondly, PD's tend to have a heavy caseload, you will just be a tiny fish in a big pond when you're in court. Thirdly, PD's are not permitted to help you in civil matters, so for example in a DUI prosecution, they will not be able to help you with your license or the DMV hearing.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Law Offices of Matthew Murillo
    Law Offices of Matthew Murillo | Matthew Murillo
    You don't "hire" a public defender. One is appointed to your case if you request one AND you qualify financially. The benefit of a private attorney is that their case load is usually much smaller so a private attorney can spend much more time researching and planning a defense for your case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/17/2011
    Mercado & Hartung
    Mercado & Hartung | Stephanie Hartung
    A public defender is an attorney appointed by the court to defendants that meet indigence requirements. A public defender is not hired by defendant's rather they are employed by agencies that exist to provide defense to low income defendants. A private attorney is one that you pay for. There are many reasons to hire a private attorney to defend you including specific training and experience. If you do not meet indigence requirements the court will not appoint you a public defender. Private attorneys charge different rates and you should consult one that practices in the area relevant to your case.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/17/2011
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