Should I Use a Public Defender Instead of Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Sep 9, 2019 | Criminal Defense

A public defender is a free lawyer. Who would turn that down?

You should.

“You have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you…”

You’ve probably heard those words spoken by police officers in countless movies and TV shows as they put the handcuffs on a suspect. That part of the Miranda warning which must be read when police make an arrest is based on the constitutional right to counsel established in the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Those words spoken by officers mean that if you are arrested and charged with a crime in Colorado Springs, a lawyer from Colorado’s Office of the State Public Defender will be assigned to represent you if you can’t afford to get one on your own.

The reality is that relying on a public defender if there is any chance you could hire a committed private Colorado Springs defense lawyer is a risky proposition compared to hiring a criminal defense lawyer.

Not because the attorneys who work at the public defender’s office are bad lawyers, don’t have your best interests at heart, or won’t work hard to protect your rights – they aren’t, they do, and they will. But the reality is you may not qualify for a Colorado Springs public defender due to your income, and even if you do, they may not be able to protect you from the consequences of a conviction adequately. Hiring a criminal lawyer can be the difference between a wrongful charge and justice for your life.

Here are three reasons not to use a public defender if at all possible:

1. Your public defender may have only minutes to devote to your defense.

In Colorado Springs and across the country, public defenders are overwhelmed with cases. Too many criminal defendants need to rely on too few public defenders in offices that can’t get the money to hire additional lawyers.

There are not enough attorneys in the Colorado Springs public defenders’ office to properly handle all of the cases they are assigned. Each public defender may have hundreds of cases to defend at any given time. With that kind of overwhelming caseload, there aren’t enough hours or days to give each defendant the effort and attention they need to mount a thorough or effective defense.

How confident would you feel about your future with a criminal defense lawyer who only was able to devote a few minutes to your criminal case?

2. A court-appointed attorney may lack the resources necessary for a good defense.

A lot goes into putting together a criminal defense that can defeat the charges against you – interviewing witnesses, hiring investigators, gathering and analyzing evidence, and retaining experts who can testify as to critical issues.

Just like public defenders lack time to devote to such efforts, they may lack the money and resources to engage in these activities that are essential to defending you, leaving you with a significantly higher risk of being convicted. On the other hand, criminal defense lawyers dedicate themselves to gathering the resources you need to win your case.

3. Public assigned counsel may push you to enter a guilty plea.

With so many cases to defend, public defenders can be under a great deal of pressure to get as many matters resolved as quickly as possible. What’s the quickest way to resolve a criminal case? Enter a guilty plea. While there are certain situations in which entering into a plea agreement is the smart strategic decision, it is a choice that should be based on the merits of the case, not because the attorney is too busy and needs to move on to their next case.

Whether it is years behind bars, thousands of dollars in fines, or a criminal record that will follow you for decades, the consequences of a criminal conviction will have a significant impact on your life going forward. Don’t short-change your chances of avoiding a negative outcome to your case by relying on an overworked and understaffed public defender’s office.

Before choosing the public defender route, you should schedule a free consultation with an experienced Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer who can devote the necessary time and attention to you and your case.