Defendants have a constitutional right to an attorney. If they cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided. These are known as public defenders. While public defenders offer free legal representation, their results are often found wanting when compared to a private criminal defense attorney. Here are three things you should know about public defenders before you go to court.
1. Public Defenders are Often Overworked
Anyone facing criminal charges who can’t afford an attorney goes to a public defender. As a result, public defenders may receive hundreds of cases per week. Every single person under arrest needs a court trial, and most of them rely on a public defender, even for misdemeanors. One study found that most public defenders have triple or even quadruple as many cases as they can comfortably handle.
Public defenders rarely have the time necessary to build a strong defense. Moreover, they can’t specialize in any one area of law because they represent any case that comes through their door.
2. Public Defenders are Assigned
As the now-infamous saying goes, “You have a right to an attorney, you don’t have a right to a specific attorney.” In practice, that means defendants are stuck with the public defender they’re assigned.
If someone doesn’t believe the public defender is acting in their best interest or devoting resources to their case, their only alternative is to hire a private attorney. Private attorneys give defendants the freedom to “shop around” and find the legal counselor who can best represent their case.
3. Public Defenders Get Worse Deals
Studies have found that public defenders are significantly less likely to get a not-guilty verdict. In the case of a deal or plea bargain, people represented by public defenders are more likely to get longer sentences and tougher probation criteria than private defenders.
If you need to build a solid defense, we can help. If you’d like an experienced Tacoma criminal attorney from Hester Law Group to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (253) 300-3034.