Criminal defendants often feel tempted to work with public defenders because they provide free legal representation while private law firms can charge expensive rates.
However, as with so many things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to legal representation. The following are five big reasons why it's best to work with a private law firm rather than a public defender:
A public defender is not likely to be the most experienced lawyer out there.
Public defenders typically make less money than lawyers working for private firms. Landing a job as a public defender is typically easier than landing a job at a private law firm because ambitious lawyers gravitate towards big name law firms rather than state jobs.
If you want the most skilled and experienced lawyer to represent you, it's always a better bet to forego the public defender. In the long run, the more expensive cost could be made up for by the fact that you get out of a criminal conviction.
A public defender is likely to be very busy and unable to dedicate a great deal of time to your case.
Public defenders typically have a much greater case load than lawyers working for private firms. They work for the state or local municipality, and these entities can only hire a limited quantity of public defenders depending on their budget.
It's unlikely that you're going to get the same level of personalized service from a public defender as you will get from a private law firm.
A public defender is not likely to have the funds and resources to invest into your case that a private law firm may have.
Private law firms often have more funds and time available to invest into discovery and interviewing witnesses who are able to defend clients with their testimony.
A public defender will not be able to represent you for civil proceedings and some types of administrative hearings.
If you hire a private lawyer, that lawyer can represent you in not only criminal proceedings but also in any related civil proceedings and administrative hearings. A public defender may only be available to represent you in certain legal proceedings that directly involve your locality or state.
A public defender that you are provided by the court is not likely to be specialized in any particular area of criminal law.
When you hire a lawyer from a private law firm, you can choose a law firm that specializes in your particular legal situation. For example, you can hire a lawyer specialized in shoplifting cases if you've been arrested for a robbery.
Any public defender that the court provides you with is unlikely to be specialized in a particular area of criminal law.