For many who get arrested, the option of hiring an attorney is just not
feasible after paying for bonds and all the other costs associated with an
arrest. For those who want to go for the path of working with a public
defender, there are a few things to know about both the good and bad when using
a public defender over hiring a private lawyer. Here are the main things to
You have to apply
In so many movies and shows, it makes it seem like the courts just automatically assign you
a public defender but unfortunately it’s a bit more complicated than that. The
first thing to know is public defenders are not always free and you actually
have to apply and be approved to be assigned one. If you explain to the courts
that you don’t have the resources to hire a lawyer, they will give you an
application where you need to fill out basic information including financials
and if you fall into a specific income bracket then you can be assigned a
public defender but sometimes if it’s over this bracket you may still have a
chance but could be charged. However, this cost will most likely be greatly
subsidized over what a private lawyer would cost.
You don’t get a choice in who you get
One big benefit of hiring a lawyer is the ability to hire one that may have a specialty in the
type of case you are dealing with or what that you overall just have a better
connection with, but when working with a public attorney, you are assigned one
and you will have no choice in the matter. Most defenders will do the best that
they can represent you but they may not have as much specialized knowledge
in certain subsets of charges.
Public defenders have a lot on their plate
Another major drawback of using a public defender can be that at any given time they have
multiple clients that they are working with. This means that unfortunately,
many are stretched very thin and they won’t have time to dedicate it all to
just your case. Again, this isn’t to say that they won’t do what they can to
represent you well but it’s just a part of it that they will be juggling quite
a few other defendants as well.
Public defender do know their areas well
While there are cons to going with public defenders, one big advantage is that they tend to know the
counties that they work in like the back of their hand. This can be helpful because will know the laws in particular localities extremely well and will often know many of the judges and other lawyers as well.
To sum up, while it is probably always going to be a better option to get a
specialized lawyer for representation, if the resources are not available or
you are fortunate enough to be eligible to be assigned a public defender at no
cost, it is still extremely beneficial for your case.