You may not qualify for the public defender, but if you do, you may be wondering whether you should keep your public defender or choose to hire a privately retained criminal attorney.
Public defenders are attorneys paid by the state, who do not choose their clients. Similarly, you don’t get to choose which public defender you get. In the case of private attorneys, individuals faced with a crime have available to them a wide array of attorneys with varying skill sets and fee structures to choose from.
Public defenders may be excellent lawyers, and many of them are; in fact, many excellent private criminal lawyers were once public defenders. However, public defenders are incredibly busy and often handle a caseload that is simply unimaginable to a private attorney. Because a private attorney chooses what cases he or she will take on, he can control his caseload and ensure that each client receives a high level of attention to detail. If you are looking for an attorney to be available almost instantaneously on a 24/7 basis, a public defender may be too busy to provide you with that level of service.
That being said, not all private defense lawyers are created equal – perhaps an obvious point, but an important one nonetheless. Use your better judgment; you can glean a lot about the way an attorney will treat you once he has your money from the initial phone consultation and the initial in-office consultation.