If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, then you may be able to obtain the services of a public defender at little to no cost. These attorneys are appointed to those who are considered indigent as a way to ensure that they have the right to counsel regardless of their financial standing. However, simply because you qualify for the appointment of a public defender does not mean that you have to accept one. In fact, being represented by a public defender comes with its own risks.
The risks associated with public defender representation
Don’t get us wrong. There are some great public defenders out there. But there are also some glaring dangers associated with accepting representation from a public defender. Here are some of them:
- Overworked: Most public defenders carry a significant caseload. This means that they’re overworked and don’t have as much time to devote to their cases as they would like. As a result, many of their cases are pushed towards resolution so that the caseload itself can be managed effectively. Although that may work for you, it may not, especially if you’ve got a strong case worth taking to trial.
- Lack of attention: Because public defenders are overworked, they tend to not have the time needed to give their clients personal attention. So, you may struggle to make contact with your public defender, and you may not be kept up-to-date with your case. This can leave you stressed and uncertain of where your case stands. It can also prevent you from taking an active role in building your criminal defense.
- Lack of experience: Many public defenders are new to the practice of law. While not necessarily a bad thing, this lack of experience means that your attorney may miss making a key objection that could protect you at both the trial and appellate levels. These lesser experienced attorneys also may not know how to build the smart and legally savvy defense strategy that you need on your side.
- Lack of choice: When you’re appointed a public defender, you don’t get to choose which attorney is assigned to you. You may end up with a public defender who is great and is willing to fight tooth and nail for you. Or you may get stuck with a recent law school graduate who is still trying to find his or her footing in the courtroom. Do you want to take your chances?
- Lack of resources: Most public defenders don’t have the resources that are oftentimes necessary to build a strong criminal defense. They usually don’t have the connections or the money needed to pay for expert witnesses and private investigators, for example, whose testimony could mean the difference between being found guilty and being acquitted.
Choose the representation that is right for you
Remember that these are just some of the risk factors associated with public defender representation. We by no means intend to demean public defenders. After all, many of them are skilled litigators who have proven themselves to be worthy advocates in the courtroom. But so much of your defense in these situations is left to luck, and that’s probably not a risk that you’re willing to take, especially when your future is on the line.
Therefore, it might be wise for you to consider discussing the facts of your case with a private criminal defense attorney who is experienced, resourced, and capable of giving you and your case the attention that is needed and deserved. Perhaps then you can rest assured that your case is in good hands and that you have maximized your chances of beating the prosecution.