Public Defender or Private Attorney: Which Option is Better For a Person Charged With a Crime?

Interviewer: Let’s talk about public defenders as compared to private attorneys. What are some of the comparisons and contrasts?

John Reade:  Most public defenders get paid a salary. What they get paid is going to be the same regardless of how many cases they have that month. A public defender usually has a high volume of cases. Therefore the amount of time they can spend on a case is usually limited to the volume of the cases they have.

Even amongst court appointed attorneys, there is a difference. Public defenders want to spend the least amount of time possible to get a case resolved. Then there are other public defenders who try to put in as much time as they can to properly represent the person they were appointed to represent.

So there is a wide variance as far as motivation and the investment of time that different court appointed attorneys put into a case. A retained attorney is not going to have the volume of cases that a court appointed attorney normally has and therefore can usually devote more time and effort to a client’s case.

A Private Attorney Has More Time and Resources to Devote to Each Case

A private attorney is going to have more time to properly and effectively defend his client’s case and spend the time needed to consider the legal and factual issues. A private attorney has more time and resources to talk to people or have an investigator do that; doing legal research; and talk to the deputy District Attorney or the prosecutor in the case.

A private attorney also has an incentive to win a case because his/her livelihood depends on it. A court appointed attorney will get paid the same whether they win or lose a case. The difference is obvious.

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