Should I Go with the Public Defender or Private Attorney?

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

Criminal Defense BasicsYou have been arrested for a crime, and now is the time to make a few crucial decisions. One of the choices you must make is whether you will plead guilty or not guilty. Another important decision is whether you will use a private attorney or the public defender offered to you.

Never make a rash decision, no matter what the prosecutor tries to throw at you. Instead, consider the pros and cons of each type of representation and only choose once you are fully informed.

Assessing the Pros and Cons of an Albuquerque Public Defender versus Private Lawyer

As a criminal defendant, you have two main options for representation: private attorney or public defender. Each has pros and cons, and deciding whether one is right for your case comes down to what you want from an attorney. Review your options carefully, consider these pros and cons, but also consider meeting with a criminal defense attorney. Most attorneys offer free case evaluations; therefore, you face no risks in talking with a private attorney to explore your options.

Choosing a Public Defender

Public defenders are attorneys appointed by the court. Some are private attorneys that lend services to the court while others work for the public defender’s office. In Albuquerque, you would be appointed an attorney from the Law Offices of the Public Defender.

Eligibility for their services is based on your household income and any personal assets you hold.

Benefits of Using a Public Defender

Hiring a public defender can be beneficial. The most significant advantage is you have legal representation even if you cannot afford an attorney. When a public defender is appointed, the state pays for their services – so you do not face out-of-pocket costs.

Other advantages include:

  • Familiarity with criminal defense: Public defenders work in criminal defense, and that is all they focus on. Therefore, you will have an attorney that likely has experience with your type of case and has represented multiple clients just like you.
  • Familiarity with judges and prosecutors: Because the public defender frequently works in criminal courts, they know the prosecutors and judges assigned. They may have a better relationship with them, which might result in a favorable plea bargain (if you choose to plead out).

Drawbacks of Using a Public Defender

There are drawbacks to using a public defender as well; therefore, review these disadvantages and compare them to the benefits:

  • Larger caseloads: Public defenders are government employees, and they make much less than a private attorney. Their services are utilized by dozens of defendants at one time, which means they have a heavy caseload. It is common for public defenders to be overworked. And with so many cases to handle, they do not have enough time to prepare or strategize.
  • Minimal contact: With the caseload of an average public defender, you most likely will meet them a few minutes before your hearing, which does not give you much time to get to know them or understand your case.
  • You cannot choose: The courts appoint an attorney; you have no say in which public defender you get.

Choosing a Private Attorney

Private attorneys are lawyers you personally select, and they do not work for the state.

Benefits of Using a Private Attorney

Hiring a private attorney unlocks several advantages that you cannot get from a public defender:

  • Fewer cases: Private attorneys have fewer cases at a time than public defenders. That gives them more time to research, review evidence, and meet with their clients. Not only will they be able to become more acquainted with their client, but they will have time to go through discovery and mount a solid defense strategy.
  • More resources: Private attorneys charge a fee for their services. But because you pay for them, you unlock more resources, including expert witnesses, paralegals, and private laboratories that can test evidence. You may have access to a private investigator, too.
  • More accessible: Public defenders have an office, but they are often at court or meeting with clients throughout the week. This might make them harder to reach than a private attorney. Private attorneys also have other team members in the office working on your case. Those team members might be able to answer your questions while your attorney is out.

Drawbacks of Using a Private Attorney

Just like there are disadvantages to hiring a public defender, there are drawbacks to going with a private attorney:

  • Cost: Public defenders cost you nothing to use, but private attorneys have fees. Every attorney sets their price based on the market and their experience. While you might notice some attorneys charge more for their services, you should never pick an attorney on cost alone. Discuss your financial situation with your attorney. For some types of cases, private lawyers will have a flat fee or work with you so that you can get the legal representation you deserve despite financial holdups.

Consult with a Defense Attorney Today

Before you pick private or public, meet with a criminal defense attorney and explore your options. The team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices will meet with you for a no obligation case evaluation.

Schedule your appointment today at 505-375-4664 or request more information online.