FAQS About Public Defenders

When you are learning about public defense, the first question you are likely to ask is, “What is a public defender?” So let’s not waste anytime answering this question, and many more frequently asked questions about public defense lawyers. A public defender is a criminal defense lawyer that works for the state and paid by the government. They provide free legal representation to defendants that are facing criminal charges that are punishable by jail time. Continue reading to read more common questions and answers just like this one!

Do Defendants Have to Pay for a Public Defender?

No, clients do not pay. However, a judge must decide that a defendant qualifies for public defense before one is appointed to them. In cases that a person is fully capable of paying for a private representation, they may be denied state assistance.

Is a Public Defender Less Qualified Than a Regular Criminal Lawyer?

No, both public defenders and private criminal attorneys are equally qualified in terms of education requirements, certifications, and licensing. The only difference is the level of skills and experience of each person.

Should I Use Public Representation or Hire My Own Lawyer?

Although public defenders are equally qualified doesn’t mean they are the most promising option for defense. Since they work for the state, their case loads are extremely rigorous and overflowing. This means they only have a limited amount of time to spend on each case. A private attorney can provide personalized representation to ensure you avoid the maximum penalties if convicted of your charges. Whether you are facing a petty charge like shoplifting, or a major charge like manslaughter, private counsel is the best choice, no matter the price. You can’t put a price on freedom, after all.

Can a Public Defense Lawyer Reject My Case?

If you are indigent and cannot pay your bills as they come due, it would be both unethical and illegal to have your case rejected since it is a violation to your Constitutional rights. Although a case can be handed over from one lawyer to another, it cannot be rejected and ultimately “skipped over” or denied. A person who is entitled to free representation will get it, no matter what.

Can I Request a New Lawyer?

If you are found to be eligible for state defense, you will be assigned a lawyer by the court. If this lawyer does not meet your expectations or recover the plea arrangement that you wanted, you do not have any options. Unless you can prove to a judge that your current lawyer is somehow violating your right to adequate representation, you cannot switch or be appointed a new one. Inadequate representation includes scenarios like missing appointments, failing to meet deadlines, forcing you to a certain plea, not informing you of case status and court dates, and ignoring critical evidence. And if you choose to appeal your conviction, you must hire private representation anyway, so asking to switch at that point wouldn’t be necessary.

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