What to know about working with a public defender

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 cost.

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.