Should I Use a Public Defender For My Criminal Case?Your right to be represented by legal counsel when you are charged with a crime is very important. A criminal defense attorney understands the laws applicable to your charges, the rules of evidence, and the court rules. An attorney also knows how to develop the best possible defense strategy based on the facts of your case. When you are facing the possibility of jail time, fines, probation, and other penalties, you want an experienced Lansing criminal defense attorney representing your best interest. However, what should you do if you do not think you can afford an attorney?
Public Defenders — What Do You Need to Know?By law, if you cannot afford an attorney, you can request the court appoint an attorney to defend you. Court appointed attorneys are called public defenders. Contrary to what you may hear, all public defenders are not bad attorneys. Many public defenders are experienced trial attorneys who have years of experience handling a variety of cases. However, when the court appoints a public defender for you, you do not have a choice of which attorney in the Public Defenders Office represents you. You could be appointed a lawyer with decades of experience handling criminal cases, or you could be appointed an attorney right of law school.
If I Can Get a Public Defender, Why Not Save the Money and Use One?There are several reasons why you may not want to accept a public defender, even if the court approves your request for the appointment of an attorney.
As mentioned above, some public defenders have years of experience, but other lawyers in the office may have very little experience. Experience matters when you are defending a person against criminal charges. Being a new or young attorney does not mean the person is a “bad” attorney, it simply means the person does not have the skills and knowledge that only time can produce.
Public defenders are often overworked because they are appointed a large number of cases because of a shortage of attorneys in the office. A heavy caseload means that the attorney has less time to work on your case. For this reason, many times public defenders may suggest accepting a plea deal because it clears another file on their desk. You want an attorney who has the time to focus on your defense.
A public defender is working with limited resources. They might not have access to private investigators, expert witnesses, and other resources that can help you prepare a strong defense to the charges you are facing. While a private attorney may not be “free,” you are getting so much more than just an attorney when you use a private law firm for your defense. You are also receiving a wealth of resources that you may not have when using a public defender.
Case Specific Experience
Public defenders handle a variety of cases that vary from misdemeanor assault to felony drug charges. Your assigned attorney may not have experience handling the specific type of crime you are facing. You want your attorney to have experience in the area of law applicable to your charges. By hiring a private attorney, you can choose an attorney who has a lot of experience defending people against the same charges you are facing.