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Public Defender vs Private Attorney

public defender vs private attorney

The main difference between a public defender vs. a private attorney is the fact that one is appointed by the state or federal government and does not cost the defendant a dime, while another is is chosen and paid for by the defendant. You might think the choice is obvious, but what is free isn’t always better. The old saying “you get what you pay for” rings true, especially when it comes to protecting your rights and defending your livelihood.

Odds are, you’ve heard of the Miranda Rights. At the very least, you’ve seen a movie or a television show that shows police officers reading someone these rights. If you have, then you know that according to the rights being read, the accused has the right to an attorney, and if they cannot afford one, the state will provide one. That state-provided attorney they speak of is what is known as a public attorney or defender.

If you’ve been arrested yourself, then you definitely know of these Miranda Rights, as you will have heard them firsthand. As such, you may recognize that you require legal assistance, but where do you begin? A defendant often has two options: hire a public defender or hire a private attorney. Both decisions offer pros and cons. Before reaching a final decision, the defendant must decide which choice is best for their situation.

Can you afford to pay for a private attorney without causing yourself financial stress? Or is a court-appointed public defender the best choice? No matter what route is taken, a skilled Shreveport/Bossier City criminal defense attorney like Michael J. Vergis can help guide you. Schedule a free consultation today by calling (318) 698-3724 to discuss your situation and gain legal insight to help you reach the best possible conclusion in your case.

What is a Public Defender?

If you can’t afford a private lawyer to handle your case, then a court-appointed attorney is an option you can explore. In these tough circumstances, a public defender represents those who are facing criminal charges in a court of law. Many criminal defendants are considered “indigent” under the law. This means they can’t afford to hire an attorney. In Louisiana, indigency is defined as a person “who is unable, without substantial financial hardship to himself or to his dependents, to obtain competent, qualified legal representation on his own.” The state cannot prosecute destitute defendants unless they are provided an attorney. This is a right provided by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The public defender’s offices are there to ensure every criminal defendant is represented by a lawyer. Unfortunately, in most cases, you do not get to choose your public defender as you would a private attorney.

So what is a public defender? In summary, a public defender is a lawyer who works for the government and gets paid by the government. They provide representation for people who can’t pay for a private lawyer. Keep in mind, however, that this is the same government agency that is prosecuting you for the crime for which you are charged.

What Does a Public Defender Do?

Some public attorneys are appointed to represent a client from start to finish.  This is known as “vertical representation.” Other times with specialized public defenders, different aspects of a case are handled by different lawyers. For example, arrests may be handled by one public defender, trials by another, and so on. This is known as “horizontal representation.” As a case progresses from beginning to end, a single defendant may be represented by a number of different public defenders.

The horizontal representation technique leaves some defendants feeling lost in the mix, especially if there isn’t close communication between the different public defenders as the case progresses. In the best-case scenario, each time an attorney works on a case or appears in court for a client, that attorney leaves clear and detailed notes in the client’s file. That way, the next attorney assigned to the case can read the case and understand how the case is proceeding. The more significant the step, the more senior (and experienced) the attorney handling it.

What is a Private Attorney?

Private attorneys are chosen, while public defenders are assigned. A private attorney is a lawyer well-versed in a specialized area of law (in this case, criminal law) who charges a fee to represent a client. Choosing a private attorney allows you greater freedom to choose a lawyer you trust, giving you the most control over the outcome of your case. The fee you pay for their services is determined by the complexity of your case, the experience and skill of your lawyer, and the amount of time they spend working on it.

What Does a Private Attorney Do?

Within the complex criminal justice system, private defense attorneys serve as a defendant’s guide, protector, and confidant. They do research, investigate the case against their clients, and try to reach agreements with prosecutors. Lower bail, reduced charges, and lighter sentences may be part of these agreements.

Criminal defense lawyers also question witnesses, help formulate a plea, analyze the prosecution’s case, look at the potential penalties, and build your legal defense.

What is the Difference Between a Public Defender and a Private Attorney?

First, we will start with the most obvious difference, which is that a public defender is free, while a private lawyer charges a fee for their services. Secondly, public defenders work with the same judges and prosecutors every day, which may come in handy when it’s time for a plea deal.

Public defenders carry a heavy caseload, possibly juggling hundreds of cases at once. This is because the number of public defenders is much smaller than the number of people needing representation. Typically, a public defender has 25% less time than a private lawyer to work on an individual case. 

A good private attorney will not only be available when you need them, but they will also have a team of people to assist you if they aren’t able to do it themselves. Having greater resources available to you typically results in a better conclusion for your case. Furthermore, a private attorney’s caseload is a lot smaller, because they won’t take on more cases than their legal team can handle.

A private defense attorney also allows for additional defense options. A private lawyer can use expert witnesses or private laboratories to test evidence to support their case because the defendant is paying for the legal services. Cost is the only disadvantage of hiring an attorney.

At the end of the day, it’s your freedom and future that are on the line. That’s why you should only obtain the most qualified legal counsel that you know you can trust with your case. Call our experienced Shreveport/Bossier City criminal defense attorney today.

Why Should I Hire a Private Attorney for My Criminal Case?

Unfortunately, many public defenders have less time to speak with or meet with their clients due to heavy caseloads. They may make mistakes or accept plea deals that aren’t in the best interests of the client as a result.

In addition to this, there are several other reasons why it is better to hire an experienced private attorney:

  • When you obtain a lawyer on your own, you have the freedom to explore your options and choose the best lawyer for your case. If a public defender is assigned to represent you, you have no choice in the matter.
  • A private lawyer’s caseload will be substantially smaller than that of a public defender. He’ll be able to devote more time to developing a good defense strategy for your unique case, and he’ll be more accessible when you need him.
  • A private criminal defense attorney has more resources and personnel working on your case in addition to having more time and resources to dedicate to it.
  • If you employ your own attorney, the chances of getting the greatest possible result for your case are higher since they typically work harder to attain this goal.

Call Criminal Defense Attorney Michael J. Vergis Today

There are significant differences between a public attorney and a private attorney. The route you choose to take could mean the difference between a guilty or not guilty verdict. If you face serious criminal accusations or have been wrongly accused, you should hire a private attorney as soon as possible for the best possible outcome. Hiring an attorney may be more expensive upfront, but the advantages will surely outweigh the expense.

Retaining a Shreveport/Bossier City defense attorney is one of the most effective strategies to lessen your stress and protect your rights. Call the law firm of Michael J. Vergis today at 318-698-3724 for a free consultation and legal advice. 

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