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Does hiring a private attorney for a criminal case vs using a public defender do more things for the case?

Okeechobee, FL |

can a private attorney get a lower sentence for someone than a public defender can?

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Attorney answers 6

Posted

No one can guarantee what the outcome of a case will be however when you hire a private attorney typically they can devote much more time to you and your case because their caseloads are significantly smaller then a public defender. Just like everything else they are good and bad PDs and good and bad private attorneys. You should invest some time in consulting with numerous attorneys and choose someone you feel comfortable with.
www.colleenglenn.com

Posted

It doesn't quite work like that. There are some good public defenders and bad public defenders. There are some good private attorneys and some bad private attorneys. Public defenders are actual attorneys.

The problem one faces with having a public defender is that a PD's caseload is huge. While you might have a great PD, they don't really have the time to give you and your case the attention you feel you deserve. Private attorneys do have a lot more time to devote to your case and so it is reasonable that may spot issues in your case a PD wouldn't. But the hiring of a private attorney is no guarantee of an outcome. The nice thing is that unlike a PD you get to choose your private attorney. I suggest you meet with several different lawyers and decide for yourself which is the best fit.

This is not to be considered legal advice nor does an attorney-client relationship exist.

Posted

I have high respect for the attorneys who struggle in Public Defender Offices across the country. That said, if you can afford to hire a qualified private criminal lawyer, I believe you will be better off, if for no other reason you will have an attorney with the time and inclination to thoroughly advise you and keep you informed. Interview two of more (most provide limited free consultations) and see if you can locate one that has the requisite experience and skill and with whom you are comfortable.

William A. Jones Jr.

William A. Jones Jr.

Posted

I would like to expand a bit on my original response. There is another factor that comes into play that has not been mentioned but that I think bears inclusion in this discussion. The Public Defender's Offices exist because they serve a vital constitutional need for provision of legal services for the indigent. It wasn't always this way. The problem is that government and the citizens who elect their governors, legislatures, and here in Pennsylvania their judges are not real enthusiastic about spending money to provide legal services to people who can not afford it themselves. Given a choice between more prosecutors or police officers on the one hand or public defenders on the other, you can imagine how those choices would poll with the public. Our court systems across the Commonwealth are under great strain to appropriately and effectively handle all of the legal matter that are brought before the courts. There is therefore a tremendous incentive for procedures and actions across the justice system to minimize costs. In my mind that translates to pressure exerted on both Commonwealth attorneys and defense counsel to help make things run more smoothly, which means working out plea deals. If every Assistant District Attorney refused to deal on the charges or the penalty to be imposed, more defendants would feel that there was no other option but to take the case to trial. The reverse is likewise true, if every defense attorney fought tooth and nail on every case for every client leaving no stone unturned, the system's efficiency would be compromised. The vast vast majority of criminal cases are disposed of by guilt pleas. That is true of both public defender and private counsel cases. If it were not so, the criminal justice system would come to a screeching halt. The system's pressure on defense counsel to "go along to get along" is in my opinion greatest on members of that county's Public Defender Office and court-appointed counsel. the pressure is less for private attorneys. [By way of an aside let me state that I am not talking about overt, explicit pressure from the system. But that there may be instances where judges communicate their feelings to attorneys at the local country club or bar association functions is entirely plausible. That there are Public Defenders (I'm now talking about the boss in the office) who communicate generally or specifically on a case by case basis with the trial attorneys about the need to be efficient, I've no doubt. My experience over many years as both prosecutor and defense attorney informs me that the likely differences between the handling of a criminal case by public or private attorneys is inversely proportional to the seriousness of the charges. That is, there will be a more noticeable difference with less serious offenses. If a defendant in a drug case had a good suppression issue that COULD result in an outright dismissal but there is an offer from the DA recommending probation where a mandatory minimum prison sentence would otherwise be applicable, I would expect a significant difference to appear. The public attorney doesn't have the time to fully explore the "technical" legal issues (in common parlance "loopholes") and will focus on sentence mitigation where he/she is likely to find a willing prosecutor. Ultimately the outcome for a defendant will depend upon many factors including luck. Most important among them as far as legal counsel is concerned are the skill level of the attorney and experience. I see many instances where defendants are "represented" by private counsel who are either not competent or unwilling to devote the time and energy to an effective defense. In all of those situations, having a public defender would likely be a relative advantage. My bottom line is this: if you can retain a private attorney after conducting a serious effort to find a good one, you will be better off than having an equivalent public defender. I am of course NOT knocking PD's; in many instances I admire what they do and how they do it, but I say "Let's be real."

Posted

As Ms. Glenn said it depends on the attorney. The public defender's office is swamped with cases and are funded by the State. So, a private attorney typically has more time to give each case individual attention and has more resources available. However, there are excellent PDs out there. If you can afford to retain private counsel, you should do so, as the Public Defender's office is for people who absolutely can't afford a lawyer.

Posted

I agree with my fellow avvo criminal defense counsel. There are many qualified lawyers in the public and private sector. Interview some private attorneys in your area and draw your own conclusions if they can "do more things" vs. each other vs. the public defender. Good luck.

I am trying to give you a general answer to your question. We do not have an attorney-client relationship by this response on the avvo website. I have not been retained to represent you. I am licensed to practice law in Kentucky and in federal court in this state and the Southern District of Indiana. You need to seek legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your area..

Posted

Hiring a lawyer versus "using a public defender" has its pros and cons. One of the most significant pros of hiring a private attorney is that their caseload is usually significantly less than that of a public defender. This usually means that a private attorney can personally spend more time on your case and that may positively affect the outcome of your case. One con of hiring a private attorney is that many private attorneys, without previously working for the Public Defender's Office or State Attorney's Office, lack the trial experience that a Public Defender may have and that may not be as beneficial for your case. So, in deciding whether to hire a private attorney or not, your decision should be based on a variety of things. However, since no lawyer can guarantee the outcome of a case, your decision should probably be based more upon the background and experience of the lawyer than any promises made to you by him or her.