The Difference Between A Public Defender and A Private Defense Lawyer

The justice system is designed in a way that any individual who has been accused of a crime is protected and gets a fair trial. When someone is faced with a criminal charge, the defendant has the option to be represented by a public defender or a privately paid defense attorney. Both a public and private defender are educated and have the same goal in mind: provide fair and just legal representation. However, there are some key differences between the two. Before proceeding with either, it is important to understand the differences, benefits and limitations associated with each.

Roles & Responsibilities of Public Defenders:

  • Part of a public defender office
  • Handle high caseload and represent many clients at once
  • Experience working with a variety of criminal cases
  • Government funded
  • Provided at no cost to individuals who cannot afford legal representation

Roles & Responsibilities of Private Defense Lawyers:

  • Work independently or as part of a law firm
  • Have flexibility over the cases they take
  • Specialize in specific areas of the law (learn about ours here)
  • Provide personalized attention to clients
  • Lower caseload and the ability to dedicate more time and resources to build a strong defense strategy
  • Paid for by the client, costs vary based on case type, experience, case complexity, location and more

Experience & Expertise of Public Defenders:

  • Legal professionals with expertise in criminal law
  • Exposed to a wide range of legal issues and courtroom procedures
  • Tend to have significant trial experience
  • Familiarity with the local legal system, judges, prosecutors as well as individual courts and their policies
  • With a higher caseload, they are not always able to spend as much time researching and building tailored defense strategies as they might like to

Experience & Expertise of Private Defense Lawyers:

  • Legal professionals with expertise in criminal law and often focus in specific areas of the law
  • With a lower case load and a specialization, they often develop in-depth understanding of complexities of their chosen field
  • Trial experience in multiple courts and familiarity with judges, prosecutors and the legal system
  • More time to individually research, craft and execute their defense strategies and explore unique legal arguments

Resources & Support of Public Defenders:

  • Government funded and have limited resources
  • Work with support staff within the public defender offices
  • Heavy caseload and limited funding can potentially make it more difficult to conduct extensive investigation or use additional resources

Resources & Support of Private Defense Lawyers:

  • Greater control over their resources
  • Access to a large network of experts, investigators and support staff
  • Use advanced technology, specialized consultants and other resources to help build a case

Making Your Decision

Public defenders are an important part of the legal system, as they are able to provide competent legal counsel for those who might otherwise not be able to afford it. However, there are drawbacks to using a public defender rather than a privately paid defense attorney. In making your decision, you have to weigh all of your options, including your finances and the potential consequences if your case ends in an unfavorable outcome. Your entire future depends on the defense team you choose. 

At Manchester and Associates our defense team is trained in the most up-to-date methods of scientific and legal expertise. We have access to the best resources and technology to build a strong defense for any situation. Do not hesitate to get in touch with the best criminal defense team.

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