Public Defender vs. Paid Attorney
You’ve been pulled over for a DUI and it’s time to defend yourself. You probably know you cannot go it alone. But, what do you do? Do you accept a public defender and hope the appointed attorney has the knowledge, experience and time to defend you properly? Or, do you hire a paid attorney, one that makes it his business to defend people in your particular situation?
In cases of serious offense, of which a DUI is, representation by the best possible defense council is important. This can be tricky, however, if you don’t have the money to hire a topnotch lawyer. You might be under the assumption that DUI cases are standard enough that any attorney, even a public defender, could properly handle the case. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, especially in certain parts of the United States.
Limited Access to Good Public Defenders
In Louisiana, for example, poor and minority citizens often have problems obtaining adequate public defenders. Occasionally, they even have trouble getting a public defender at all. Louisiana’s limited funding for public defenders has left thousands of people in various types of cases, including murder cases where a defendant could face life in prison, without appropriate defense. Defendants facing a DUI in Louisiana, and in many other states, continually face issues finding a proper public defender who can competently manage their case.
Does a Public Defender Have Time to Defend You?
Should you choose a public defender to defend you when facing a DUI, you may find that your attorney is overworked and not able to put adequate time toward your defense. Public attorneys have hundreds, if not thousands, of cases to pour through. If you hire a paid attorney, on the other hand, your lawyer is much more likely to be available for personal time and to prepare a reasonable defense. A paid attorney will likely create his/her own schedule and can therefore devote more time to your case.
Is Your Case Complicated?
If your DUI case is complicated in any way, you should probably do what it takes to get a paid attorney. Most states have drunk driving laws that indicate an over-the-limit blood-alcohol level of .08 or greater. When a defendant’s level is recorded as even near the legal limit, it’s rare that the case will be a slam-dunk for the prosecution. A paid attorney will usually offer a free consultation over the phone to let you know what you’re up against, and how you might win.
Public Defenders’ Work is Limited
Public defenders can’t help you with anything outside of the courtroom, such as DMV hearings, suspensions and the like. Paid attorneys can offer consultations in these areas and give guidance going forward with the DMV, even if your case is dismissed or reduced in court. Skilled DUI attorneys can use DMV hearings and court processes in tandem, to arrange the best outcome for you.
At the very least, you should consult with a paid attorney even if you think you can’t afford one. There could be special arrangements that can be made in terms of payments or fees.