What is the difference between a public defender and if you hired your own attorney? 8 Answers as of July 05, 2011

I had to drive to work after my DUI and was caught on a suspended license, is there going to be any difference between who represents me given the facts seem pretty straight forward?

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Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
There are several schools of thought on your question. First of all, if you can afford to hire one you shouldn't be getting the PD anyway. Other than that there are great public defenders (I started as one) and great private lawyers. Conversely there are terrible pubic defenders and real dumptrucks of private lawyers. Public defenders are overworked and if you found a great private criminal specialist and paid what their services and case demanded, you can't go wrong.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/5/2011
Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
If your income is in the level that qualifies as indigent, you may have the representation of the Public Defender. PD's are good attorneys who have lots of experience. People often complain about them, though, because they are completely overloaded with work and clients. So, if you can afford to hire one, some people choose to retain an attorney. Private attorneys may or may not be better or more experienced. What you're generally buying, however, is someone who can concentrate more on your case in particular.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/5/2011
VSL & Associates
VSL & Associates | Valerie Lopez
There is no difference in requirements to become a lawyer between a Public Defender or Private Attorney. Each has taken and passed the bar exam making them eligible to practice law. There are a couple differences that may impact your decision to get a private attorney versus public defender, such as work load. Most private attorneys have less cases than the public defender and thus can give you more personalized attention and service. Secondly, some private attorneys specialize in DUI and associated charges, this may give them an upper hand with your defense. I personally advise that you be represented by someone you can trust and who explains your case to you. If you have the public defender and they can do this great. If not, then you may need to hire a private attorney to represent you.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/5/2011
Nelson & Lawless
Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
Price. If you cant afford private counsel, you can apply for the Public Defender at your first court hearing. Your financial disclosure documents to the court will determine how much if anything you will be charged for the PD.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/5/2011
Law Office of Jeff Yeh
Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
A typical PD has hundreds of cases to handle per month, and a PD is not allowed to represent you on matters at the DMV. VC 14601.2 requires mandatory jail time, so please choose your attorney wisely.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/5/2011
    Law Office of Joe Dane
    Law Office of Joe Dane | Joe Dane
    I'm not one to bash public defenders. There are some excellent attorneys in the Public Defender's Office. There are also some ... less than excellent. Same thing with private lawyers. The differences? First - you can choose the attorney you want if you hire one. If you are appointed a public defender, you get who their office assigns. It could be a good one or you might get a brand new attorney, etc. Second - time. A private attorney will have the time to meet with you to discuss the case, any possible defenses and can appear in court on your behalf to negotiate the best outcome and/or fight on your behalf. Not only will your attorney have more time for you, but you save your own time - unless the judge orders you to be present, your attorney can appear on your behalf. Finally - as an offshoot of the "time" factor - Public Defenders are unfortunately notoriously overworked and have way too many cases. It's not their fault, just the nature of their duties. They don't have a lot of time to devote to any one case and often look to settle cases quickly and efficiently. I'm not saying they may be able to get a good deal, but often you won't speak to your attorney until they've already worked out a plea deal with the DA. Wouldn't you rather discuss the case with your attorney, not an interviewer before they present your side to the DA?
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Law Office of Rodney Nosratabadi
    Law Office of Rodney Nosratabadi | Rodney Nosratabadi
    If you have a public defender, you have to show up to court. And a public defender may or may not be able to get you the best deal.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation
    Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation | Christopher Lee
    Yes, it does matter. You would want a competent attorney who has experience or specializes in criminal defense or DUIs.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/5/2011
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