The difference is usually experience. A misdemeanor court appointed lawyer is rather young and inexperienced. If he pleads you out he will get $100.00 It is hard to say what the results will be between a court appointed and paid lawyer, however it is my belief that when you pay for a lawyer you will get a more experienced and aggressive defense.
If you do not qualify for a court appointed lawyer, you are not going to get one. If you have the ability to pay a lawyer, and apparently you do, then you must hire a lawyer.
The difference is generally not much if you hire a cheap lawyer because it is likely their experience is no more than a court appointed. DWI lawyers are VERY expensive - like $5,000 plus.
Let me premise my answer by saying I have not practiced in your county, so I am not familiar with the appointment system there. I would defer to Mr. Churak in that regard.
I practice in the same county as Ms. Henley, so when she writes that it is "apparent" you will not qualify for an appointed attorney, I am inclined to agree. She means you are out on bond, and, here in Harris County, the logic of most judges is that if you can afford bond, you can afford an attorney. Not exactly grounded in reality, but there ya have it.
And yes, as Mr. Churak points out, it is more likely to get appointed a lawyer with limited experience, at least in misdemeanor courts. Been there. In my thinking, however, that does not very often mean they are incompetent and, in fact, may be a bit more passionate about the practice of law than some seasoned professionals (I made a vow to myself years ago to quit if I ever got jaded).
A problem often occurs when they are appointed a half dozen or more cases in a day. They may not have the time your case properly needs to review it. If you are incarcerated, they will not waste any time with any one on the outside who is concerned about you and may only be seeing you at court settings. Another problem is that appointed attorneys that aren't shy about taking cases to trial often find themselves without appointments eventually.
DWI is a more technical charge than many others and if you think you should fight it, get someone who regularly practices in that area.
24 years in Texas Family Law and Criminal Defense.
You have no idea what result to expect, except lawyers who aren't trained and experienced in
DWI cases don't know what to look for. Court appointed lawyers might be very good or very inexperienced criminal lawyers, but none has the special training and experience of a real DWI lawyer.
The consideration in court-appointed versus retained isn't supposed to be what they can do for you. It's supposed to be whether or not you're indigent. If you can afford to hire someone, you're supposed to hire someone.
That being said, there are some amazing, experienced attorneys who do court-appointed work in Bexar County, even on misdemeanors, but they are few and far between. The majority of the lawyers working misdemeanors here are either inexperienced, or just plead everything and never go to trial - those are the ones running a volume business. If you end up with a court-appointed attorney, you will get a good feel of it your lawyer is a fighter or not.
Keep in mind that there are attorneys you can hire who are the same. Every single attorney who does court-appointed work also does retained work. Ethically, that attorney should treat every single client the same and work each case as diligently, but realistically and sadly, there are few that do so, in my opinion.
Regardless of if you are able to hire someone or if you have to apply for court-appointed (in Bexar County, you can still qualify even if you're on bond - they barely consider that), you should be looking for the same things. Has the attorney tried DWIs? What is the lawyer's background? How many trials have they done? How quickly do they seem to turn over their cases? Do they sound like they know what they are doing? Is there advice consistent with what your gut says? When it isn't, are they able to answer your questions in a way that makes sense? Trust your gut.
I intend this answer to be for general information only and it should not be substituted for advice from an experienced local lawyer who can investigate your situation fully. My practice area spans primarily across South and Central Texas. If you want to retain my services for a different part of the state, I will have to charge you for my travel, and it will likely be more cost-effective to retain local counsel. My contact information, and that for all attorneys on Avvo can be found by clicking on our names.