Should I Use a Public Defender?

You’ve been arrested or a warrant has been issued for your arrest.  When the arresting officer read you your Miranda Rights, he or she said, “You have the right to an attorney.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you at no cost.”

“Great!” you think.  “I can get a free attorney?  Sign me up!”

Not so fast.  Is a public defender the right choice?  Before you decide, there are a few things to take into consideration.


Advantages of Using a Public Defender

A public defender is a lawyer that has been appointed by the court to argue your case on your behalf.  On t.v. and in movies, public defenders are usually portrayed as inept and uncaring, but this bad rap is usually far from the truth.  The general thinking is that because they make less money than private attorneys, they aren’t as qualified.  In fact, in most jurisdictions, public defender positions are highly competitive and difficult to get so usually the lawyers who get them are good.

A public defender who has been on the job for a while has represented clients who have been tried for a variety of crimes which makes them experienced and versatile and will most likely do a good job representing you in court.

Some may feel that because a public defender doesn’t have to rely on their reputation to obtain new clients, they don’t care whether they win or lose, but this is not true either.  Many are fine with making less money because they believe in the cause.  They’re helping people who don’t have the money to help themselves and may be the only thing standing between an innocent person and jail.  They have a “calling” to help others.  For others, it’s a great way to earn a lot of trial experience which will make them a better lawyer down the line, perhaps for jumping into private practice or the District Attorney’s office.

One of the major advantages to using a public defender is that they generally work closely with the District Attorney’s office which means they are more likely to be able to get a plea deal passed that works in your favor than they would if they were a private lawyer who’s on the outside.


Disadvantages of Using a Public Defender

There are some reasons to consider hiring a private attorney if you have the means to do so.  It’s true that public defenders have huge workloads.  This not only means that they have less time for each client, but also that they are more difficult to get in touch with.  While a private attorney may spend most of their time in their office, a public defender is most often found in court.

A heavy workload can lead to more mistakes.  They simply have less time to cover all the details of your case.  Another disadvantage is that you don’t have a choice as to who is appointed to your case and although you can request a new one, it’s difficult and time-consuming.

A private attorney will have more resources such as additional staff and the money to hire experts or run tests to help your case.  Of course, this all costs you more money, and private attorneys are expensive.

In court, priority is given to private lawyers, so if you have a public defender, you’ll have to wait longer.


You May Not Qualify for a Public Defender

To be eligible for a public defender, you must be found to be indigent.  Your application for a public defender will be reviewed, and your income must be equal to or below 200% of the poverty guidelines, are receiving specific public assistance and other benefits.  If you don’t meet the requirements, your only option would be a private attorney.  You may be considered indigent but have a friend or loved one to help you pay for a private attorney.

Before spending the money, weigh the pros and cons of using a public defender or your own lawyer and try to determine which will work best in your circumstances.  If you have any questions about the arrest and bail process, Mercy Bail Bonds is here to help and we’ll get you the answers you need.  Our expert bondsmen may be able to get you out of jail in a few hours.  Call us today at (727) 856-7775 anytime, 24/7.