Criminal Attorneys Aren't Just for Criminals

The Difference Between A Criminal Lawyer And A Public Defender

by Eva Holmes

When facing a criminal charge, you have the legal right to have an attorney assisting you with your case, and there are two main ways to get one. You can either hire one yourself and pay for it out of your pocket, or you could ask the court for one. One appointed by the court is referred to as a public defender. While a public defender and private attorney have things in common, they also have some differences, and here are several things to understand about these two things.

They are both lawyers

The thing that criminal lawyers and public defenders have in common is the fact that they are both lawyers. In fact, a person you can hire as your criminal lawyer is probably a public defender too. In essence, they are the same thing; however, criminal lawyers work for their clients while public defenders actually work for the state.

Lawyers can turn down cases, while public defenders cannot

One difference between a criminal lawyer and a public defender is their ability to choose their cases. A criminal lawyer can meet with a potential client to hear more details about the person's case. The lawyer can then make a decision about whether he or she wants to accept this case and represent this person. A public defender does not get the chance to select cases. The court simply appoints cases to him or her, and the only way the public defender could get out of the case is by proving that there is a conflict of interest with the defendant.

There are cost differences

Another difference is the amount of money you will have to spend for each option. When you hire a criminal lawyer, you will have to pay the fees the lawyer charges. When you ask for a public defender, you will not get a bill. The state picks up the tab for this, but it is important to know that you cannot get a public defender if you are in a position where you can afford to pay a lawyer for the services you need.

The services are the same, yet different

The other thing to realize is that public defenders do not always have a lot of time to work on the cases they are assigned to. While they are required to provide legal services to those that they are appointed to represent, you may not get to spend as much time with your public defender working on your case as you would if you hired your own lawyer.

As you begin working on your case, you will need to determine if you can afford to hire a criminal lawyer to represent you. If so, contact a criminal law firm in your city.