What Is The Difference Between a Public Defender and a Private Defense Attorney?
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What Is The Difference Between a Public Defender and a Private Defense Attorney?

7th December 2023

What Is The Difference Between a Public Defender and a Private Defense Attorney - Sand Law PLLC Fargo North Dakota Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you’ve been charged with committing a crime, you might be weighing your options when it comes to your attorney. You could be wondering if you should go with a public defender or choose a private defense attorney instead. Whether you’ve been charged with theft or you’re looking at a federal drug charge, your decision is going to be one of the most important you’ve ever made in your life.

The criminal defense attorneys with Sand Law PLLC can’t make this decision for you. But we can promise that we will do everything we possibly can to either reduce the penalties you face or have your case dropped entirely. We have a great deal of experience defending our clients against criminal charges. And we’re ready to put that knowledge to work for you.

If you would like to schedule a free, no-obligation review of your case, reach out to us as soon as possible. Give us a call at 701-609-1510 or use our online contact form.

What is a Public Defender?

A public defender is an attorney appointed by the court to represent defendants facing a criminal charge. But you might be surprised to learn that you can’t just request a public defender. You have to show that you can’t afford to pay for private legal counsel.

Public defenders take cases the court assigns. They can tell you what charges you face, as well as the potential penalties if you’re found guilty. A public defender can also give you an idea of how the court system works in cases like yours.

Since they work for the court, they may oftentimes work in the court’s best interests. That means they will often try to find a resolution to the case without having to go to trial. That will not only save the court time, it will also save money.

What is a Private Defense Attorney?

Private attorneys, of course, are paid legal representatives. They will always work in your best interests. Not those of the court. Private legal representatives will make sure your rights are always protected and will take whatever action you prefer. For instance, your attorney can try to resolve your case before trial. Or, if it’s better for your case, they’ll fight your charges in a courtroom.

Is a Private Attorney Better than a Public Defender?

It’s important to reiterate that a private attorney will always fight to make sure your rights are observed at all times. You can’t count on a public defender doing the same thing. Not only do they typically have very little (if anything) invested in helping you. But they’re often overwhelmed as well. They may have to deal with so many cases that they can’t devote the time it takes to provide you with the very best representation possible.

Private attorneys, on the other hand, cost money. It may be money you might not have. The amount you’ll pay will depend on several factors. You might be paying a flat rate. Or you might pay by the hour. This will vary based on the attorney you hire.

However, many defendants eventually regret hiring a public defender based on money alone. They often find they actually wind up paying more in fees, fines and other costs when convicted. And these oftentimes add up to more than what a private attorney would have cost.

Should You Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney for Your Case?

These are just a few of the other reasons why you should hire a private defense attorney if possible.

  • Communication. A private attorney will always keep you informed through every phase of your case. And they’ll be there when you have questions or concerns. If you’re wondering whether you should take a lie detector test, for example, a private attorney will provide a clear, well-thought out recommendation. You might be lucky if a public defender even returns your call, much less gives you helpful advice.
  • You have the choice. Public defenders are court appointed. So you won’t be able to select your legal representative. While you could eventually decide to fire the public defender’s office and go with a paid attorney, you won’t be able to change the one assigned to your case. But with a private attorney, you have complete control. You can do your research and find out what kind of experience and track record they have in cases similar to yours.
  • Better results. Public defenders typically can’t deliver the results that private attorneys can. A private attorney, on the other hand, will be incredibly motivated to win your case. The more cases they win, the more clients they will be able to obtain. And, yes, the more money they will make. Private attorneys will leave no stone unturned in order to prove a client’s innocence. If you’re charged with a DUI, for instance, a private attorney will see if any element of your arrest was unlawful. Public defenders, for the most part, simply won’t be that motivated to dig deep into your case.

Steps in a Criminal Case

There are typically several stages in a criminal case. While the details can vary depending on the case’s nature and other factors, general steps include the following:

  • Investigation: Law enforcement authorities investigate alleged criminal activities, gather evidence, and interview witnesses. If they feel there are sufficient grounds, they then seek an arrest warrant.
  • Arrest: Police arrest the investigation target and read them their Miranda rights.
  • Booking: Authorities bring the suspect to the police station for processing. This processing includes recording personal information, taking photographs and fingerprints, and creating an arrest record.
  • Initial appearance: The suspect appears before the court, which informs them of the charges. The judge may then set bail.
  • Bail hearing: If the judge grants bail, the defendant can argue for a hearing to argue for a lower amount or to ask the court to release them on their recognizance.
  • Arraignment: The court formally presents charges to the defendant, who then pleads guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  • Discovery: The prosecution and defense exchange information and evidence relevant to the case to prepare for trial.
  • Pretrial motions: Attorneys will sometimes file motions to request actions of the court. These can include evidence suppression or charge dismissal. The judge will then rule on the requests.
  • Plea bargain negotiation: The defense attorney and prosecutor may negotiate a deal. For example, the deal may include the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence.
  • Trial: If the two sides don’t reach a plea deal, the case goes to trial, where the defense and prosecution present their arguments to the jury.
  • Verdict: The court renders a guilty or not guilty verdict.
  • Sentencing: The judge informs the defendant of their punishment.
  • Appeal: The defense or prosecution can appeal the decision to a higher court if they don’t agree with the verdict or sentence.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Defense Strategy

You and your attorney will consider many factors when deciding on a defense strategy. These factors include the nature of the charges, strength of the evidence, witness credibility, the defendant’s criminal history, etc.

Potential legal strategies include self-defense, insufficient evidence, and lack of intent. You may have a solid alibi that could lead to your acquittal or the dropping of charges.

Understanding Your Legal Protections

It’s critical you understand your rights. These include the following:

  • Miranda rights: The arresting officer must inform you of your right to legal representation and your right to remain silent during interrogations.
  • Presumption of innocence: The prosecution has to prove you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Unreasonable search and seizure protection: If law enforcement obtained evidence illegally, the court could throw it out.

Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney About Your Options

Whether you’re facing years in prison or you’ve been charged with a relatively minor offense, your best bet will always be to go with a private defense attorney if at all possible. A private attorney will have the expertise, motivation, and time to help you achieve the best possible result in your case.

At Sand Law, we have years of producing positive results for our clients who have been charged with criminal offenses. We will never make any promises regarding how your case will turn out. However, we can guarantee you’ll never work with an attorney who will work harder on your behalf. We know how frightening a time this is in your life. We’ll do everything we can to help you put this chapter behind you in the most favorable manner possible.

If you would like to learn more about what we may be able to do for you, please get in touch with Sand Law as soon as you can. Contact us online or call 701-609-1510 for a free consultation with no strings attached.

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