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Public Defender vs. Private Criminal Defense Attorney

Craig Kadish

By: Craig Kadish

May 4, 2020

When you or someone you care about is charged with a crime, the legal process moves quickly.  The very first, and probably most important decision that has to be made is “do I hire a criminal defense attorney?”.  Many people’s first thought is to get a Public Defender to represent them.  While this is an option, it’s not always the best choice and here’s why; with a public defender, you have no choice

What we mean by that is the person charged with the crime must apply themselves, meet financial eligibility requirements, and then wait for their Public Defender to be assigned to them.  Your only option, should you be eligible, is the person they assign to you; it may be a new attorney just out of law school or someone you or your family just doesn’t get along with.  Regardless of whether you think you are being well represented, you have no choice with a public defender, you simply have to take who they give you.

In an effort to provide you with as much information as possible so that you can make an informed decision, let’s dive into the pros and cons of a public defender, and then we will do the same for a private criminal defense attorney.

Pros of a Public Defender

Public Defenders are FREE. The most obvious benefit, and perhaps the only benefit, is that a public defender is free. The whole idea behind a public defender is to provide legal counsel to those who cannot afford it.  Most of the time, this is where the benefit ends.

Cons of a Public Defender

Massive caseload. The biggest problem with a public defender is their caseload.  To be fair, this isn’t their fault. The number of public defenders is much smaller than it should be, therefore requiring each attorney to take on a massive caseload. Given that you are almost always just a number in a long list of cases, it’s hard to mount the strongest defense when it is possible that the only conversation that you can have with your public defender is the day of your trial.  In fact, the number one complaint about public defenders is:  “I only got to talk to them ONCE before my trial.

Increased risk of a bad outcome. If you were to compare outcomes of similar cases defended by a public attorney to those defended by a private criminal defense attorney, the evidence would show that the probability of serving jail time goes up with a public defender versus a private attorney. The main reason being is what we cited above; most public defenders have too many cases to focus enough energy to compile a good defense for their clients.

Pros of a Private Criminal Defense Attorney

Availability & Resources. The first pro of hiring a private attorney is their availability. A good attorney will not only be available to you whenever you need them, but they will also have a staff that can help you if they aren’t able to do it themselves at any given moment. Having more resources at their disposal will often mean a better outcome in your case.

Smaller caseload. Secondly, a private criminal defense attorney has a much smaller caseload than a public defender.  In virtually all cases, when we appear in court with you, you are the only client we are representing that day; the public defender often has dozens.

Cons of a Private Attorney

Cost. Hiring a private criminal defense attorney requires that you pay them, and there is no question that some cases can be costly depending on the attorney that you hire.  However, you often get what you pay for in life and this is absolutely true when talking about criminal defense attorneys.

In Conclusion

Finally, keep in mind that regardless of whether they represent you well or not, the public defender will always have more work than they can handle.  A private attorney only stays in business by consistently getting their client's superior outcomes.  In other words, you should only trust your freedom to a criminal defense attorney who has the time to fight for it.

Having the right counsel could mean the difference between a guilty or not guilty verdict. While having a private lawyer may have some cost, you only get one chance to present your case to the court.  A person charged with a crime should always have the most experienced and skilled attorney that they can find, and that is almost always a private criminal defense attorney.

If you or someone you love is in need of a criminal defense attorney, give us a call or schedule a free case review with our team.

At Craig M. Kadish & Associates, LLC, we have been defending those charged with crimes for over 30 years; we are widely considered one of the premier criminal defense practices in the State of Maryland. We are on call at night, on weekends, and any other time that you need to speak to your lawyer. In this time of Covid-19, be comforted knowing that when you reach out, your call will be answered and your case will be given the attention it deserves and that you should expect.

Craig Kadish

Craig Kadish

With 30 years of experience and a lengthy track record of success, Craig Kadish has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most highly sought after criminal defense attorneys. Mr. Kadish has practiced criminal law for three decades, winning an array of high-profile cases. He has had the honor of being recognized both locally and nationally for his dedication, diligence, and prowess in representing clients in exacting and innovate ways. He’s known as a leader in his field. His tenure as a criminal defense attorney and law professor has given him invaluable expertise that few other attorneys possess.

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