If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense and are below a certain income threshold, then you’ll qualify for the appointment of a public defender. Working with a court-appointed attorney is an easy path, but you don’t have to take a public defender. So, the question becomes whether a public defender is right for you.
The risks of going with a public defender
There are a number of risks associated with having a public defender represent you. Here are some of them:
- Random assignment: There are competent, experienced public defenders, but your chances of getting one of these attorneys is left to luck. This is because your public defender assignment is somewhat random and is primarily based on existing caseloads. So, you don’t have much say, if any, in who represents you.
- High caseloads: Public defenders have a lot of cases, which means they are overworked and underpaid. Additionally, this means that public defenders are more concerned with managing their caseloads rather than managing each individual case. This increases the risk that your case will get lost in the shuffle and not receive the attention it needs and deserves. It also means that you might be pushed to take a plea deal instead of the attorney dedicating the time necessary to take your case to trial.
- Inexperienced attorneys: Not all, but many, public defenders are relatively new attorneys. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does increase the risk of you receiving something that is far short of the best criminal defense possible. Your public defender may be unable to make and meet objections and might not put in the work needed to ensure that your case is as fully prepared and persuasive as possible.
Don’t put your future on the line
There’s simply too much at stake in your criminal case to leave your defense to chance. Fortunately, you don’t have to accept inadequate representation just because you qualify for it. Instead, you can seek out private counsel who can provide you and your case with the individualized, aggressive representation needed to reach a favorable outcome, whether that’s negotiating a plea deal or litigating your case in court.