When someone is charged with a serious crime, competent defense is an essential component in making sure the rights of the Defendant are protected throughout his or her experience with the Criminal Justice System.
That means defendants have a very important choice to make: do they go with a private Criminal Defense Attorney or a Court-appointed Defender. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the key differences, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both.
Court-appointed Criminal Defense Lawyer
Court-appointed Attorneys serve the needs of people who are charged with a crime and do not have the financial means to hire a private lawyer. Just like private attorneys, Court-appointed Defenders are fully credentialed attorneys who attended law school and passed the Bar exam for the state in which they practice.
There is however, something that could be considered a big drawback when it comes to choosing a Court-appointed Defender: time. Because Court-appointed Lawyers are most often public servants whose salary is paid by the taxpayer, they often have an unbelievably huge caseload. Some studies suggest the average Court-appointed Defender works on as many as 300 cases at a time.
This, of course, means the Court-appointed Attorney often doesn’t have the time or resources to put together an optimal defense. In many cases, defendants will be encouraged to accept a plea deal, even if it might not be necessary or in the client’s best interest. In some instances, innocent people have pleaded guilty, just to avoid jail time or lingering any longer in the Criminal Justice System.
This is not because the Court-appointed Lawyer is negligent. Like private attorneys, Court-appointed Lawyers are doing everything possible to protect the client’s rights; they just don’t have the adequate time or resources to become very familiar with every aspect of a case.
Private Criminal Defense Attorney
For those who can afford a private Criminal Defense Attorney, the advantages are many. Of course the most apparent aspect is time. Because private Defense Lawyers deal with a much smaller caseload, they can devote much more time and resources to a case. That means they’ll be far more familiar with the details of your case and able to dedicate the time needed to mount the most effective defense possible.
This is yet another area where clients see the benefit of hiring a private attorney. Not only will a private Criminal Defense Attorney have more time to prepare a case for trial, but the attorney will also have more resources available. That usually means having several people working on your case, from private investigators, to research and legal assistants as well as other Attorneys.
Private Attorneys will be fully prepared to present a vigorous defense at trial and will make sure the client is well aware of the risks involved.
What Does History Suggest?
A study released in 2012 by the Rand Corporation highlighted some startling trends concerning Court-appointed Lawyers. It found that between 1994 and 2005, defendants of limited means who were charged with murder and chose a Court-appointed Defender were found guilty more often and sentenced to more time in prison.
The study looked at inmates in Philadelphia and found that the likelihood of receiving a life sentence was reduced by 62-percent when defendants chose not to use a Court-appointed Lawyer.
The evidence shows that defendants are typically much better off with a private Attorney as opposed to a Court-appointed one. Of course, not everyone can afford a private Attorney and are therefore at the mercy of their Court-appointed Attorney.