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If you have been convicted of a crime, there are many decisions that lie ahead of you. Perhaps one of the most important decisions you must make is the attorney that you choose to defend you. A good attorney can make all the difference when it comes to whether or not you are convicted of a crime and, if you are, the type of sentence that you receive. It can be tempting to retain the services of the public defender that is provided to you by the courts. Prior to making any decisions, it may be a good idea to have a clear understanding of what you can expect from a public defender.

Public Defender: Pros and Cons

In most cases the cons to hiring a public defender far outweigh the benefits, especially when you may be facing potential jail time if convicted of a crime.


  • Public defenders are usually allocated to specified districts. As a result, they often have built relationships with other members of the court such as judges and other attorneys.
  • Because they are often in the same district, they will have a better idea of local witnesses who may be called to testify and whether or not they are good witnesses.
  • They may be quicker to reach a plea deal with the opposing counsel, which could potentially move you through the legal process sooner than going through a lengthy trial.


  • They are often overworked as they carry large caseloads. This can make it difficult for them to spend very much time working on your case.
  • Do not have the same access to as many resources as a private attorney.
  • It can be harder to replace your court appointed attorney with another if you are not happy with their services.
  • At times, their knowledge can be limited when it comes to more specific issues.

Private Attorneys

While utilizing a private attorney is the preferred method for legal representation, if you find that your public defender is not adequate, it will be important to speak with a private criminal defense attorney immediately.

  • Private attorneys usually have knowledge of a vast amount of cases.
  • Usually they are only working with a limited number of cases, giving them the ability to focus on your case.
  • You will be able to do your research and personally choose an attorney who is the right fit for you.

Hiring a criminal defense attorney can be expensive, making it tempting to access a public defender. While this may be an enticing prospect, you may be better off choosing your own private attorney. Spending the excess money to retain a criminal defense attorney, in the long run may give you a better chance of putting your interests at the forefront. Speak with an experienced attorney such as the criminal defense lawyer Washington DC locals trust.

Thanks to authors at The Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn LLC for their insight into Criminal Defense Law.