Many good lawyers work as public defenders. They have a lot of trial experience; they file a lot of motions, and they usually aren’t lawyers who just graduated from law school and passed the bar. When I have had questions on tough criminal defense issues, the main person I turned to for answers is a public defender who has handled thousands of cases.
While public defenders have a lot of good qualities, I would not recommend going with a one represents you on a criminal charge. There are several reasons for my recommendation, and some of the reasons might not be what you are expecting. I have heard clients and potential clients of mine bitterly complain about how their public defender didn’t keep them informed about what is going on in their case. A defendant should always be kept up to date as to what is going on in their case. It’s the defendant’s freedom that is on the line. There is no excuse for not keeping a client informed about their criminal case. How can a defendant make a proper decision about whether to go to trial or take a plea deal on a domestic violence charge when they are not kept informed?
I have also talked to defendants who complained that their public defender didn’t seem prepared for trial. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. Your typical defender has a huge workload. They are overworked and underpaid. If you are working on over 100 cases and have to run to court every day, where is the public defender going to find time for a trial?
Going with a public defender or court-appointed attorney is a crapshoot. A defendant may get lucky and get a public defender that actually keeps them informed on their drunk driving case and puts in the proper amount of time needed to resolve a trial in the defendant’s favor. However, if a defendant spends an appropriate amount of time researching criminal defense lawyers in their area, they should be able to find a criminal defense attorney who keeps them informed every step of the way and will fight for you in court.
A court-appointed attorney is a little different lawyer. A public defender works at the county defender’s office. A court-appointed attorney probably has their own law firm or works as an associate at a law firm in town. A court-appointed attorney is getting paid a low amount of money to handle a criminal case. Because of this, some court-appointed attorneys don’t spend the amount of time needed to defend your shoplifting case properly. I’ve heard of court-appointed attorneys getting paid as little as $150.00 for a misdemeanor criminal case and less than $1,000 dollars to handle a felony case. Many court-appointed attorneys don’t want to put in the time needed, when they are getting paid so little, to defend their client’s rights properly. You should not risk your liberty by going with a court-appointed attorney. Great criminal defense attorneys know how to get their clients the best results possible! Remember, you get what you pay for!