Are Public Defenders Good?
You are entitled to legal representation if you are charged with a crime under the Michigan legal system. The court will appoint a defense lawyer to represent a criminal defendant who cannot afford one. However, working with a public defender may not always be in your best interest, regardless of how easy it may seem to accept a court’s offer of a free defense lawyer.
You need to hire a private defense attorney to increase your chances of fighting criminal charges against you and avoiding a conviction. Although many factors determine your chances of success in a criminal case, the kind of criminal defense lawyer you hire is crucial.
Are Public Defenders Good?
Frederick Mardlin’s case effectively illustrates the necessity of hiring a private criminal defense lawyer to create an effective defense against criminal accusations. The 32-year-old father of three served three years in jail for an offense he did not commit after being wrongfully convicted of arson.
Mardlin’s court-appointed public defender could not get funding for hiring an electrical expert witness to provide testimony in court. The expert testimony would have demonstrated that the fire was not started on purpose and was brought on by defective wiring.
Cases of this nature are not unusual in Michigan due to the overburdened and underfunded public defense system. Therefore, you should consider retaining private counsel to secure the best legal defense for you or a loved one facing criminal charges in Michigan.
Four Drawbacks of Consulting a Public Defender
When defendants lack the financial resources to engage a private attorney, courts appoint public defenders paid by the government to represent them. Unfortunately the public defense system is understaffed and public defenders are overworked, making it challenging to build a solid defense for the people they represent.
In contrast, private attorneys have adequate time and resources to devote to the criminal cases they handle. They work diligently to get the charges against you wholly withdrawn or to get you a lesser punishment. They also offer a range of legal services designed to cater to your legal needs from the start of your case until its conclusion.
If you are still undecided about whether you should go with a public defender or hire a private lawyer, here are four potential drawbacks to hiring a public defender that you should consider:
Public Defenders Have a Heavy Caseload
Since public defenders are government employees, they are not as well paid as private lawyers and are typically overburdened. The average public defender in Michigan takes on over 150 criminal cases at a time. Sometimes, they only have the time to review your case file a day before your scheduled court date. Creating a solid defense in less than 24 hours is nearly impossible.
In addition, a public defender may only meet with a criminal defendant briefly before the latter takes a plea bargain. They may encourage their clients to plead guilty or take plea deals which may not be in their best interests in an effort to reduce their heavy workload.
They Lack the Resources Needed to Create a Solid Legal Defense
It costs money and labor to conduct investigations, build an aggressive defense, and hire expert witnesses. However, public defenders lack support staff and the financial resources to prepare a case effectively. In addition, they may resort to cheap or public laboratories to gather forensic evidence which may only be partially accurate or reliable, unlike evidence obtained from private laboratories.
Public defenders must formally request funds to cover defense costs, and the defendant may be charged for them if funding is not approved. In Frederick Mardlin’s case, he was found guilty because he lacked the funds to prepare his defense effectively. If he had retained a private criminal defense attorney, his outcome would have likely been very different.
Heavy caseloads and inadequate resources could hinder a public defender from devoting the time, effort, and focus required to craft a legal defense that could have eliminated or lessened the consequences of a conviction.
Most Public Defenders Do Not Have an Area of Specialty
Public defenders are qualified lawyers, but they are not specialized and may lack the expertise of an experienced private lawyer due to their high client turnover. Utilizing a public defender is comparable to visiting a family physician when you require a heart surgeon.
Suppose you are accused of sexual assault, you should then hire sex crime lawyers. If you are involved in a murder trial, you should then hire a defense attorney specializing in handling homicide cases. On the other hand, if you have been charged with financial fraud, you need a lawyer with sufficient experience defending those charged with financial fraud (see: what to look for in a criminal defense lawyer).
Hiring a lawyer specializing in the law field under which the crime you have been charged with is classified improves your chances of success. An experienced lawyer can advise you on recent changes and legal trends relevant to your case.
You Cannot Choose Your Own Attorney
A public defender is a court-appointed lawyer. You are not permitted to choose which public defender will represent you, as this decision is reserved for the courts. In such cases, you may be stuck with a lawyer you do not like, and getting a different public defender to represent you can be challenging.
Every defendant should trust and feel comfortable with his or her lawyer. Your lawyer should respect the attorney-client relationship and protect the confidential or sensitive information you share with them. A great defense lawyer is to act in your best interest and work with you towards clearing the charges brought before you. Therefore, you should be able to choose your attorney. This option is only possible when you consider hiring a private lawyer.
Public Defenders are Not Always Provided at No Cost
Since every criminal defendant is entitled to legal representation, public defenders are appointed for those who cannot afford a lawyer. In most cases, a court must first approve your application for a public defender before appointing a counsel to represent you.
Contrary to popular belief, public defenders are typically not free. You could be required to pay back some of our court costs and attorneys’ fees for legal services rendered, depending on the charges, court verdict, your financial position, and even as a condition of parole. Also, you may be required to pay an application fee when applying to the court to appoint a public defender to represent you.
The Price of Cutting Corners on a Defense
Many defendants opt for a public defender because they believe private counsel is expensive. When facing criminal accusations, it might be detrimental to your prospects of winning at trial if you do not hire a private attorney.
When choosing a private lawyer, you should keep your budget in mind. Still, it would be best if you did not allow concerns about excessive lawyer fees to prevent you from getting the best legal assistance.
Attempting to cut costs on a legal defense by consulting a public defender typically results in a significantly higher probability of conviction and a harsher punishment than what would happen if you hired a private defense attorney. No matter how capable or committed a public defender may be, they frequently lack the time, money, and other resources to prepare a case and develop a vigorous defense.
The United States has One of the Highest Incarceration Rates in the Developed World
For more than 20 years, the United States has had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Due to Michigan’s overworked and failing legal system, the incarceration rate may even be higher than in other states. Since the system is already overburdened, it worsens as more people rely on public defenders.
Sadly, innocent persons who lack dogged and skilled legal representation are occasionally convicted and sentenced for crimes they did not commit. According to the Michigan Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Michigan’s criminal justice system is infamous for injustice of this kind.
Do Not Put Your Future at Risk! Hire a Seasoned Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Building a solid legal defense can seem daunting, especially when you work with a public defender. It would help if you did not go through the process alone or with a public defender that has limited expertise, time, or resources to defend you effectively. Our law office at Blank Law, PC, is open to you if you need private counsel for yourself or a loved one in a criminal case anywhere in Michigan.
We accept all major credit cards and keep our prices fair to make it easier for you to acquire an excellent legal defense. The consequences of not hiring a skilled private attorney include a criminal record, jail time, and severe financial fines. Your life could be adversely affected for a long time if you fail to retain the best legal counsel.
Attorney Nicole Blank Becker of Blank Law, PC worked as a former prosecutor, giving her a unique advantage over other private lawyers. She is familiar with the same judges and court processes as any public defender, and can help you navigate Michigan’s criminal justice system successfully. Do not put your future in danger! Contact us today for a free initial consultation.