First of all, no one should settle for an attorney who is “good enough.” Many people make the mistake of selecting the first attorney they talk to. This is true of a divorce just as much as it is true of those looking for a criminal defense lawyer. The big difference is what is at stake. Do not trust your freedom to just anyone. Look for a lawyer who will make your case and your life a priority when pursuing justice.
The Difference Between Public Defenders and Private Attorneys
The Constitution guarantees everyone the right to confront their accusers and the right to a fair trial. The law has long recognized that in order to give someone a fair trial, they must be given free and competent legal assistance. Public defenders serve this noble and important role in the American justice system. They level the playing field and ensure that even the poorest members of society still receive representation, thereby forcing the government to prove every case. That said, there are some key differences between court-appointed lawyers and those in private practice.
- Public defenders have huge caseloads. Some public defenders receive hundreds of new cases every year. Depending on the jurisdiction, some public defenders find themselves handling several trials a day, many of which are major felony cases. As The Guardian reports, many public defenders find themselves overworked and underpaid, and as such, it can be difficult to put enough time into each case to adequately defend a client.
- Private attorneys have more flexibility. Since court-appointed lawyers are on the public payroll, they rarely have the luxury of “accepting” or “declining” cases. If a suspect is accused and requests assistance, the public defender must represent that person unless there is some lawful reason to decline, such as a conflict of interests. For this reason, some court-appointed lawyers may become exhausted by having to accept one case after another where the suspect is admittedly guilty and stands no chance of winning.
- Public defenders often lack resources. The lack of choice and autonomy can make some become disenfranchised. As recently reported by the Washington Post, many public defenders have reported feeling disenfranchised and unable to effectively represent their clients. Moreover, when it comes to expert witnesses, private investigators, and other resources, state budgets are often much tighter for public defenders than for prosecutors.
I Can't Afford a Private Attorney
While cost is sometimes a poor indicator of quality, it is important to consider when looking at why some public defenders may not be able to devote as much time to a client's case as their private practice counterparts. While it is true that you will have to pay your lawyer if you hire private counsel, you may be surprised how affordable skilled legal counsel can be. Some cases may only involve a single court appearance. An experienced Spokane DUI lawyer can take a little extra time to discuss your case and retain the necessary experts and investigators to help defend you. When your livelihood and freedom are on the line, the skill and experience of an aggressive criminal defense lawyer counts.