Should I Use a Public Defender For My Criminal Case?

Your right to be represented by legal counsel when you are charged with a crime is very important. A criminal defense attorney understands the laws applicable to your charges, the rules of evidence, and the court rules. An attorney also knows how to develop the best possible defense strategy based on the facts of your case. When you are facing the possibility of jail time, fines, probation, and other penalties, you want an experienced Lansing criminal defense attorney representing your best interest.  However, what should you do if you do not think you can afford an attorney?

Public Defenders — What Do You Need to Know?

By law, if you cannot afford an attorney, you can request the court appoint an attorney to defend you. Court appointed attorneys are called public defenders. Contrary to what you may hear, all public defenders are not bad attorneys. Many public defenders are experienced trial attorneys who have years of experience handling a variety of cases.  However, when the court appoints a public defender for you, you do not have a choice of which attorney in the Public Defenders Office represents you. You could be appointed a lawyer with decades of experience handling criminal cases, or you could be appointed an attorney right of law school.

If I Can Get a Public Defender, Why Not Save the Money and Use One?

There are several reasons why you may not want to accept a public defender, even if the court approves your request for the appointment of an attorney.

  • Experience —

    As mentioned above, some public defenders have years of experience, but other lawyers in the office may have very little experience. Experience matters when you are defending a person against criminal charges. Being a new or young attorney does not mean the person is a “bad” attorney, it simply means the person does not have the skills and knowledge that only time can produce.

  • Caseload —

    Public defenders are often overworked because they are appointed a large number of cases because of a shortage of attorneys in the office. A heavy caseload means that the attorney has less time to work on your case. For this reason, many times public defenders may suggest accepting a plea deal because it clears another file on their desk. You want an attorney who has the time to focus on your defense.

  • Resources —

    A public defender is working with limited resources. They might not have access to private investigators, expert witnesses, and other resources that can help you prepare a strong defense to the charges you are facing. While a private attorney may not be “free,” you are getting so much more than just an attorney when you use a private law firm for your defense. You are also receiving a wealth of resources that you may not have when using a public defender.

  • Case Specific Experience —

    Public defenders handle a variety of cases that vary from misdemeanor assault to felony drug charges. Your assigned attorney may not have experience handling the specific type of crime you are facing. You want your attorney to have experience in the area of law applicable to your charges. By hiring a private attorney, you can choose an attorney who has a lot of experience defending people against the same charges you are facing.

Again, There is the Price of Hiring a Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney to Consider

A public defender is not always free. You may be required to reimburse the government for some of the costs of your defense. Therefore, you are not receiving “free” legal representation even though you are assigned a public defender. In many cases, people who say they cannot afford a criminal defense lawyer have not met with an attorney. They “assume” a private attorney costs more than they can afford to pay or they only called one or two attorneys who happen to charge the most expensive rates for their services.

It is in your best interest to obtain advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney when you are charged with a crime. Many attorneys offer free consultations; therefore, it does not cost you anything to explore your options. Once you speak with an attorney, you may realize that you can afford a private attorney.  You may also realize that you do not want to sacrifice your best interest to save money.

Call The Clark Law Office for More Information

Before you decide to request a public defender, we urge you to contact our office to request your free legal consultation with a Lansing criminal defense attorney. If you cannot afford to hire our office, then definitely request a public defender, but you owe it to yourself to get as much information as possible about the best way to defend yourself.  Contact our office by telephone at 517-347-6900 to speak with a Michigan criminal defense attorney. For your convenience, we have offices in Okemos and Lansing.