I’ve had the opportunity to sit before several potential clients and I know this is one of the many questions they struggle with, especially when it’s clear that the limited funds they have could be used for something more enjoyable, ie.. a trip to Vegas or one of those overly expensive items from Kanye’s new fashion line. Well I’m here to set the record strait and provide some insight for the curious minds.
I want to first start off my stating, this is not a post bashing Public Defenders. In fact, a lot of my good friends are public defenders and are excellent attorneys. Early in my career I would call them and ask all types of questions just so that I didn’t sound too stupid in front of my clients. Most of them know their stuff. However, there are a few differences between a private attorney and a public defender that can make all the difference with your overall experience with the criminal justice system.
Let’s start with the obvious, public defenders typically carry an enormous case load and can therefore only dedicate so much time to each client. In most instances, you won’t even meet your lawyer until the day of court. When your liberty is on the line, this is enough to make anyone hotter than fish grease. Before you start to use those nice choice words you learned in grade school, understand that a public defender is a government employee who is generally paid much lower than those in the private sector. To add insult to injury, they handle as many as 100 to 200 cases at a time depending on which jurisdiction you’re in. Trust me, they would love to give you all their time, but there aren’t enough hours in the day for that. They have to spread the love. Because of this limitation, public defenders are often not able to review your case until the day of or the day before your scheduled hearing. Generally, this is not enough time to get a very good sense of who their client is, potentially preventing the lawyer from obtaining information that may be very important in formulating a defense. This could also lead to the Public Defender missing small but crucial details about a case that a more thorough investigation would reveal.
On the flip side, a private attorney usually will not have this issue because they will have a smaller case load. Most private attorneys typically handle about 10 to 50 cases at a time. Because we control the number of cases we take on, we can devote all the necessary attention that your case demands. We are usually available whenever you need us and often times are available for advice after the conclusion of your case. Because we have a far more manageable caseload than a public defender, this will usually allow your private attorney more time to do a thorough investigative analysis and do additional investigative work on your case. This is key when it comes to finding holes in the prosecution’s case against you, which can in turn be used to get the case dismissed entirely or at least have some of the charges dropped or reduced. In addition, most private attorneys have more resources at their disposal. Private attorneys usually have an existing network of private investigators, expert witnesses, associate lawyers and paralegals that they can draw upon to do further work on your case.
Secondly, you are required to work with the particular public defender who has been appointed to your case. You do not get to choose your attorney when working with the public defender’s office. If you simply do not like your assigned attorney, or don’t feel they have your best interest at heart, tough luck. This is really important and a lot of people overlook this fact. In all honesty, a lot of lawyers can be douche bags. It can be a long painful experience when you realize that your lawyer is a prick and they could care less about your side of the story. With a private attorney, you have the ability to interview several attorneys and choose the paid lawyer that you feel most comfortable with. In addition, private attorneys thrive based on their reputation and if they are not meeting their clients’ needs and expectations, this will haunt them and you can always fire them if you don’t mesh well.
There is always the infamous third option, which when you think about it, really shouldn’t be an option at all and that is to represent yourself. Let the truth be told, lawyers don’t even do this. There’s an old legal expression, “An attorney who represents themselves has a fool for a client.” This applies to non lawyers as well. To represent yourself is a real, real mistake. The prosecutor is an experienced attorney. The likelihood of you knowing the court and you knowing the laws, you knowing the system, is extremely small to begin with and you knowing it better than a prosecutor is almost non-existent.
So what should you do if you need an attorney for your criminal or DUI matter? This is ultimately up to you. Only you can decide what is in your best interests. So think hard about whether you should go with a public defender or a private attorney. Don’t even think about representing yourself. If you have further questions, please feel free to give my office a call at 240-561-7433.
About Me: Prince Williams, Esq., is an AVID Lawyer with AVID Law Firm, LLC. The premiere accident, DUI and criminal defense firm in Maryland. Call today at 240-561-7433. Let us know how we can help you.