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Public Defenders Explained

Under the United States Constitution, all citizens have the right to an attorney if charged with a crime that can threaten their liberty. You’re probably familiar with the phrase “if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.” These appointed attorneys are known as public defenders. If you have recently been arrested for a crime, it’s important to understand the role of public defenders.

Reasons to Consider a Public Defender

If you prove to the court that you cannot afford to hire a private attorney, you will be appointed a public defender. Because they work with the same prosecutors, judges and police officers over and over, a public defender knows personal habits, tolerances and pet peeves, which is valuable information when handling a defense case. Public defenders also typically work in “niche” areas of law, such as DWI and domestic violence cases. This allows them to stay up-to-date on the latest changes in laws. And because they often handle a high volume of cases, public defenders have to be efficient when dealing with your case and will likely take less time than a private attorney.

Reasons to Hire a Private Defense Attorney

Private attorneys are often able to devote more time to each case than public defenders, which means you will have more access to your attorney throughout the entire criminal court process. In addition, they will assist you with any civil or administrative proceedings that may be related to your case. This means you’ll only have to hire one attorney. A private attorney will also have more funds to hire investigators to help build you a solid defense.

Always Ask for a Second Opinion

Many private attorneys offer a free consultation, so if you have met with a public defender, be sure to seek a second opinion. You’ll want to ask questions related to their experience handling cases like yours. You should also seek to understand the court process so you’ll be prepared for the preliminary hearing. Also, be sure to ask how the attorney plans to build you a solid defense in order to resolve your case.