Public defender for DUI pros and cons

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was arrested for my fourth DUI last night. I have no money, and I may be entitled to a public defender for my DUI. I am wondering, however, does it make sense to try to raise the money to hire my own lawyer or can a public defender handle most criminal DUI cases?”

drunk driving arrest

Under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution criminal defendants who are unable to afford a criminal defense lawyer and who are facing possible imprisonment have the right to a public criminal defense lawyer.

Will a public defender sufficiently defend your DUI case?

Assuming you have submitted your financial documents and proven your income level is low enough to qualify for a public defender, the question is not whether or not you can get a public defender’s help, but rather whether their help will be sufficient for your DUI case.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of working with a court-appointed criminal defense lawyer.

Getting a Public Criminal Defense Attorney

Pro: Public defenders may understand the local courthouse.

Not only is a public defender potentially free, but they also generally have extensive knowledge of the local courthouse, judges, and state prosecuting attorneys. Additionally, unlike some private criminal defense lawyers who may be relatively inexperienced in certain types of cases, it’s likely that your public defender will have handled dozens of cases just like your DUI case.

Con: Public criminal defense lawyers are notoriously overworked.

The main complaint from most criminal defendants who have to rely on public criminal defense lawyers is that their attorney has too many cases. This complaint is a real issue. In fact, public defenders may be working on dozens of cases at one time and may give your case very little attention.

Hiring a Private Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you can hire a private criminal defense lawyer most experts agree this is the best course of action. This does not mean, however, that there are not pros and cons for this decision.

Pros: You can choose which DUI lawyer to hire.

Instead of having the court assign you a public defender who may or may not be skilled enough to defend you against your felony charge, if you decide to hire your own lawyer, you are free to hire whomever you choose.

Pros: Your private attorney will not be as busy as a public defender.

Another reason to hire your own private DUI lawyer is that they will have the time to focus on the specific needs of your DUI case. While this might not be very important if this was your first DUI and you were simply going to seek a plea agreement with the prosecution, because this is your fourth DUI you are most likely facing a felony DUI charge, you will need all the help you can get. 

Con: Private criminal defense lawyers are expensive.

Hiring a private criminal defense lawyer can be very expensive. The price will vary on the attorney’s expertise, the city in which they practice, and the complexity of the DUI case.

Bottom Line:

Hire a private lawyer if you can. If not, hope that you get an experienced public defender who is not too overworked.

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Beth

Beth L. is a content developer for LeadRival, a cutting edge company that helps connect DUI lawyers with DUI clients. Beth L. writes about a variety of DUI topics to help drivers who have been arrested for DUI, getting them the legal help they need.