Getting arrested and going through the court system can be a costly endeavor
that a lot of people may not be able to afford. For this reason, public
defenders exist to help those who can’t afford to hire a lawyer but still
deserve representation to defend their case. There are however more hurdles and
challenges that come with this than many assume. Here is what you need to know
and expect when opting to work with a public defender over a private lawyer.
You must apply
One aspect of
getting a public defender that many are surprised about is that you will actually
need to fill out an application and apply for one. In movies and shows when law
enforcement recites the Miranda rights, it is always made to seem like you just
have to ask for one and it will be given but in reality, someone has to be eligible.
This is done to make sure that people who actually have the resources to hire a
private lawyer do not just ask to use the services of a public defender to save
on money thus taking away services from those who actually need them. The
application will ask about resources and income to help determine if the defendant
will get assigned a public defender at no cost or in some cases a subsidized
A lawyer will be assigned to your case
When it comes to
the main difference between that of using a public defender or opting to hire a
lawyer, it mostly going to come down to choice. When you go for a private
attorney, you have the luxury of choosing one. This means you are able to get
someone who may specialize in the types of cases you are being charged with and
someone who you may have built some type of relationship with but when it comes
to public defenders, they will be more general in their knowledge as opposed to
specialization and will be assigned to you as opposed to you being able to
choose someone to defend your case. Of course, the defender will do the best of
their ability to properly defend your side but unfortunately little can be done
if the defender who is assigned is not one that has vast knowledge in certain
fields or possibly clashing personality types.
Public defenders always have a busy caseload
The final thing
to know about public defenders is that in most instances, your case is one of
many for them. Public defenders often have to juggle several cases at any given
time so one-on-one time may be limited. Just to reiterate, this does not mean
that they won’t have your best interests in mind or will not take your case seriously,
but it can mean that they may not have as much time to devote to studying up on
certain aspects before a trial if it comes to that.
To sum up, it may always be optimal to hire your own lawyer if resources
allow, but in the event that you do end up working with a public defender
instead, they will still work to ensure that your side is represented fairly.