Can public defender do a as good of job as hired attorney in criminal case? Can one select a public defender?
4 attorney answers
Public Defenders can, and very often will, do a fine job - as good a hired attorney. But you may never know why, because you can't sit down and talk with them at any length. A private lawyer should offer you plenty of time to go over your concerns, develop your case, hire an investigator if necessary. In misdemeanor cases, a private attorney is a big benefit in that you don't have to go court. In some felony cases, the court can also allow your attorney to appear on your behalf while you are at work or otherwise engaged.
You may hear from private attorneys that you should take a certain deal, but they should be able to tell you why trial is not in your best interest. Two absolute rights you have (where the decision is your alone) is whether to PLEAD GUILTY OR NOT (and therefore to set for a trial if you wish) and whether to TESTIFY OR NOT (and therefore to remain silent - or to take the stand in your own defense).
When I have a client who has a public defender, but wants to hire a private lawyer. I talk to them at length about the facts of the case, what has happened so far, and what their expectations are regarding the outcome. Many times I have refused to take cases over because I believe there is nothing better to be done. This has happened twice in the past few weeks. Sometimes, taking on a private lawyer hurts you by allowing what was a fair offer to be removed from consideration by the Prosecutor.
Finally, private attorneys are typically a pricey venture when it comes to standing firm and setting for trial. You can expect to spend many thousands of dollars on a jury trial because of the time it takes to effectively defend your case. Many lawyers charge by the day, many will also set a flat rate. Your best option is to consult a number of lawyers, tell them your expectations, ask what they think they can reasonably do for you, and then make an informed decision.
Daniel A. Nicholson
Yes, although it's heresy for a private attorney to say so, many public defenders are extremely capable and experienced lawyers. And, no, OF COURSE you don't get your pick.
Sure, PD's are excellent attorneys. It is not a question of whether they are good or not it is a question of whether they have the time to devote to your case and no you dont get to pick. They will assign someone to you.
The main problem with a court-appointed attorney is choice. Some are excellent dedicated and hard-working. Others are not. WHile the same is true of private lawyers, at least with private lawyers there are ways of checking one's reputation and experience (including this site for example) and if your private lawyer is not living up to your expectations, you fire him and retain someone else. That can't easily be done with court appointed counsel. It also may not have to be that expensive. Interview a number of lawyers in your area, most give free consultations, many will have payment plans and can work with you on the fee. All else being equal it is always best to have someone who is not overburdened with cases andis hired just to work on your case.
A lawyer cannot drop a client just because the client won't accept a plea deal. But if this disagreement effects the ability of the lawyer to work with the client then it may rise to the level of enough to get him off the case. Ask yourself: If you trust in the lawyer's ability and knowledge why not follow his advice? Why wouldhe be recommending something not in your interets? You need to sit down with him and have him explain in detail why he feels you should take the plea and you need to explain to him why yuou feel you shouldn't and see if you can come to an agreement. Maybe he knows something about your case that he has not explained to you or vice versa Good luck.