Should I Choose a Public Defender or Private Attorney?

After an individual is arrested and presented with criminal charges, choosing whether to use a public defender or a private attorney is one of the most important decisions he or she can make. Either decision has pros and cons.


Hiring a Public Defender


  • The defendant doesn’t have to pay any of the attorney’s fees, which can be expensive.
  • Public defenders are generally familiar with a variety of criminal cases. They work with local prosecutors on a regular basis, and having that rapport established can help with the approval of plea agreements.


  • Because they are employees of the government, public defenders earn much less than private attorneys. They also typically have large caseloads since lots of people who get arrested aren’t able to afford a private attorney. This leads to public defenders being both overworked and underpaid, meaning that they won’t have as much time to devote to a specific case. The impact of this could be a public defender missing key information that would help him or her formulate a powerful legal defense.
  • A public defender also has a limited amount of time to meet clients in person; sometimes, a public defender only meets with a client a few minutes before he or she enters a plea. 
  • To cope with the large caseload, public defenders sometimes try to plead out as many cases as they can. Again, this results in the public defender not formulating a significant legal defense that can reduce the impact of a conviction.
  • When you choose a public defender, you don’t have a choice about the actual individual; he or she is appointed by the court, and it may be difficult to get a new public defender if your personalities aren’t a good match.

Hiring a Private Attorney


The most obvious disadvantage of hiring a private attorney is that you are responsible for paying the attorney’s fees. This can be a significant amount, especially when the case is serious.


Generally, the advantages of hiring a private attorney outweigh the main disadvantage of paying the attorney’s fees.

  • Private attorneys generally don’t have nearly as many cases as public defenders. They’re able to have significant one-on-one time with clients, which can help them to generate a powerful legal defense. This can also help the attorney discover weaknesses in the prosecution’s case that may result in reduced charges or even dismissal of the case.
  • A private attorney can have more resources to help with the defense. Expert witnesses can be called in to explain certain aspects of the case, private investigators can help turn up important evidence, private labs can run tests on key evidence, etc. Private attorneys have additional staff that can assist with the case as well, such as associates and paralegals.
  • When you hire a private attorney, you get the chance to meet the individual and determine if your personalities fit well. You can decide whether or not to hire the person or to find a different attorney. Additionally, since private lawyers aren’t government employees and rely on satisfied clients to continue their businesses, they are more motivated to get positive results for their clients.

If you or a loved one need help navigating an arrest, or if you're in need of bail bond or private investigation services in the Denver area, contact us today for a free consultation.

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