What is a public defender?
A public defender is a lawyer who is assigned by the court to provide legal representation for your DUI case if you can prove that you are unable to afford a private defender. Prior to assigning a public defender the court will ask for financial information which proves you do not have the means to hire your own DUI defense lawyer. If the court determines you have sufficient resources and income, they will refuse to assign public counsel and you will have to hire your own DUI private defender.
What is a private defender?
A private DUI lawyer will either work for a law office or have their own practice. If you have been accused of drunk driving you can hire a private lawyer to defend you against the charges by either discussing a plea agreement or taking your case to court.
Benefits and drawbacks of hiring Public DUI Defender
The main benefit of hiring a public defender will be the cost. Depending on your state’s laws, you may have to subsidize part of the cost of the public defender; in other states you may not. If you cannot hire your own private DUI lawyer, having a public defender help you with your case is preferable to attempting to defend yourself. Additionally, many public defenders have developed a strong rapport with the courts and judges which can benefit you and your DUI case.
The biggest criticism of public defenders is they are overworked, handling dozens or hundreds of cases at one time, which does not allow them much time to focus on your case. Public defenders, in contrast to a private defender, also may not specialize in specific types of criminal law cases.
Private defender who only defend DUI cases will have developed specialized knowledge that a public defender may not have developed. Finally, it is likely that if you are assigned a public defender they will have little time to focus on your case, which can be critical to implementing a strong DUI defense. In fact, because they are paid a salary they may have very little incentive to take a strong DUI case to trial and may instead argue for a plea (which may not be in your best interest).
Benefits and drawbacks of hiring a Private DUI lawyer
There are several benefits of hiring a private DUI lawyer. First, you will not be assigned a lawyer by the court but can interview several attorneys and decide who is best for you. A private lawyer will also have more time to focus on your case and is not rushed or encouraged to push for a plea. Most private DUI lawyers will only take 10 to 50 cases at one time.
With resources such as the internet attorneys will also have to work harder than ever to make sure they are meeting the needs of their clients and bad news travels fast. If they do poor legal work they may find it hard to find clients.
What is the main drawback of a private lawyer? The main one, and maybe the only one, is the cost. A private lawyer can cost thousands of dollars. And some DUI defendant simply do not have the money to hire a private lawyer.
The Bottom Line
Unless you are destitute it is likely you will not meet the income and resource requirements to get a public defender, and hiring a private lawyer will be your only option. The good news is that statistically claimants who hire a private lawyer generally end up getting less fines and lighter jail terms than those represented by a public defender.