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Should You Hire an Attorney or Use a Public Defender?
August 23, 2021

If you’re charged with a crime, what’s the best legal defense your money could buy right now?

If money is already a struggle for you, this can be a challenging and potentially scary question. Between 40 - 60% of middle-class individuals and about 80% of low-income individuals can’t financially cover all their legal needs. For them, the only reasonable option is a public defender.

Although experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer Anthony Candela operates as a private attorney, he knows from years of legal practice that there are pros and cons to either hiring a lawyer or allowing a public defender to represent you; this blog has previously covered what to look for in a great defense attorney.

This post will further lay out the pros and cons between these two types of attorneys so that you can make the most informed decision possible based on your circumstances.

Public Defenders

Public defenders are appointed to your case free of charge. For people with no other way of getting someone with legal experience to represent them in the courtroom, they’re a much better option than representing yourself, especially since you’ll likely be up against a prosecutor with years of experience making arguments that convince juries to convict you.

Due to the volume of cases they typically take on, public defenders are also likely to have already worked on cases like yours in the past, giving them a better idea of what sort of result to realistically expect.

There are risks to working with a public defender, though. Since the court appoints them to your case, you can’t choose one to represent you. Public defenders are also often overworked. A public attorney might handle as many as 590 different cases in a single year.

This kind of workload leaves them far less time to focus on your case in particular and can encourage them to push you toward a guilty plea more quickly, especially if the prosecutor is offering a deal that involves a lighter sentence. This approach may have its merits in cases where it’s clear you aren’t likely to beat any of your charges, but it could also get you a worse punishment and a criminal record in cases where these could’ve been avoided.

Private Attorneys

A private criminal defense attorney is one that you hire yourself. This means that you have more control over who’s representing you in court and how they’re going to do so. Given that they’re also inherently more expensive than public defenders, they usually have a lighter case load, which gives them more time to focus on your case in particular. Many private criminal attorneys have previously worked as public defenders. This means they’ve also had experience handling a high volume of many different types of cases, and may be even more likely than a public defender to know what kind of result to expect from yours.

That said, your choice of private attorneys only extends as far as your budget. If you don’t have much money to work with, you may find it more difficult to find an experienced lawyer who will take your case. Even if you do, there are other financial concerns.

If the attorney believes that you have a winnable case, you may choose to go to trial rather than simply plead guilty. That also means you’re on the hook to pay the attorney for their services for as long as the trial continues. The length of a trial can vary significantly based on many factors, so there’s no guarantee how long you’d be paying them for.

Know Your Options

There are still ways to get their help if you’re in this situation. Many private attorneys offer free one-time consultations in which they’ll explain how they can help you and offer some guidance on your case.

Experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer Anthony Candela is one such attorney. If you or someone you know has been arrested, has pending criminal charges or needs a new attorney, schedule a consultation with him now.

Tampa criminal defense attorney Anthony Candela helps you decide if a public defender or a private defense attorney makes more sense for you.
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