The Difference Between a Criminal Lawyer and Public Defender

Understanding the Difference Between a Criminal Lawyer and Public DefenderThe criminal justice system can be complicated to navigate, especially for a first-time defendant. Many individuals who are being taken to trial for a criminal case often wonder if they should contact a criminal lawyer or work with a court-appointed public defender. Before that question can be answered, it is important to understand the difference between the two. 

If you are being taken to court for a criminal charge, you should know about all of your options before deciding on legal representation. Take a look below to learn more about the difference between a criminal lawyer and a public defender, and discover which one is the best choice for your particular case.

What Service Do Public Defenders Provide?

The Sixth Amendment grants all criminal defendants in the United States the right to legal representation during court proceedings. This creates a fair trial for both the plaintiff and the defendant. However, not everyone can afford to hire a private lawyer, and some individuals may feel that they don’t need one for their case. Defendants who take this route often end up working with a public defender.

What Is a Public Defender?

Public defenders are licensed attorneys-at-law who are employed and funded by the state. Their primary responsibility is to defend clients who cannot afford to pay for the full cost of professional legal services. 

Obtaining a Public Defender

To obtain representation by an assigned public defender, you must first qualify. The process for qualification requires that you request court-appointed representation from the judge after you have been arraigned, which is a formal reading of criminal charges before the defendant. The court will require proof of your inability to pay for a lawyer, which may include filling out paperwork while you are under oath. 

If the judge considers you eligible, you will have a public defender appointed to represent your case in court. If no public defenders are available, you will be assigned a private attorney, whose services will be paid for with public funds. 

Pros & Cons

  • Pro: Working with a public defender is much less expensive than working with a private attorney. Many individuals who are put through the criminal justice system cannot afford to hire someone to defend them, and being able to work with a public defender has helped many people avoid a more serious outcome for their case.
  • Con: Public defenders are often overworked due to the number of defendants who require a low-cost solution for their legal representation. Studies conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics report that the annual caseload for public defenders ranged from 50 to 590 cases. Due to the volume of cases that these lawyers may be handling at once, there is a possibility that your case will not receive the attention it requires. There is also a possibility that the person assigned to you may not have experience in the crime you are being charged with, which can weaken your defense.

What Does a Private Criminal Lawyer Do?

Private criminal defense lawyers often have specializations, and if you plan on working with one, it is necessary to find a professional who has experience in the area of your particular charge. If you are unsure whether or not a lawyer will be able to defend your case, schedule a consultation to discuss it with them. Even if they do not feel qualified to handle the case, there may be another attorney at their law firm that can assist you.

What Is a Criminal Lawyer?

Criminal lawyers, also known as criminal defense lawyers, work to defend any individual or company who has been charged with a crime or criminal activity. These professionals provide personalized assistance to their clients and often help defendants from the point of arrest to the post-trial.

Pros & Cons

  • Pros: Hiring a private lawyer gives you the chance to select someone with experience in cases similar to yours, which can be an invaluable advantage in court. Criminal defense lawyers tend to have better resources than public defenders, including access to private investigators and expert witnesses that can strengthen your defense. Private lawyers will also have more time to devote the necessary attention to your case. 
  • Cons: Working with a criminal lawyer is expensive, with many of them charging an average hourly rate of anywhere between $100 and $300. In some circumstances, lawyers may also charge additional fees or take a percentage of any awarded compensation. Keep in mind that what you pay to a lawyer does not cover other legal fees, which might include the cost of filing legal documents with the courthouse, travel expenses, or document copying fees.

Defend Your Case with an Experienced Criminal Lawyer in Orlando, Florida

Working with a trusted criminal defense lawyer can increase your chance of successfully defending your case. If you’re ready to begin building your defense, the professionals at The Umansky Law Firm are here to help. With over 100 years of combined experience in criminal defense cases from all over Central Florida, The Umansky Law Firm is prepared to work with you and obtain the justice that you deserve.

For more information, or to schedule a free consultation with a member of our world-class team, call 407-228-3838 or visit us online today.