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Indianapolis Criminal & OWI Lawyers > Blog > Criminal Defense > Public Defender vs. Private Attorney

Public Defender vs. Private Attorney


In the U.S., someone facing criminal charges has the constitutional right to an attorney. You also have the option of representing yourself. However, it is advisable that criminal defendants avoid self-representation. If you have been charged with a crime, you can be represented by a public defender or private attorney. You are entitled to use a public defender if you cannot afford to hire an attorney. However, before deciding to go with a public defender, it is crucial that you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Understanding the Difference Between a Public Defender and Private Attorney

A public defender is an attorney that the court appoints to represent a criminal defendant who cannot afford to hire an attorney. When a public defender handles your case, you don’t have to worry about legal fees, as these attorneys handle cases at no charge. This is one of the biggest advantages of hiring a public defender over a private defense attorney.

Private attorneys are not appointed by the court. Instead, you, as the defendant, choose your private defense attorney. You can meet with several attorneys before deciding who to hire to represent you. However, unlike public defenders, private attorneys charge for their services.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Public Defender

As mentioned already, one of the most notable advantages of hiring a public defender is that you don’t have to pay them. Another advantage of working with a public defender is that public defenders often have a lot of trial experience.  Public Defender agencies tend to provide more frequent legal updates and provide practical courtroom training.

However, there are some major drawbacks of hiring a public defender you need to keep in mind. They include the following;

  • Large caseloads: Public defenders are often overloaded with cases. While representing you, a public defender might be working with any number of other defendants. This leaves many public defender clients feeling like their case was neglected.
  • Limited choice: Since public defenders are court-appointed, you do not have a say in who handles your case.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Private Attorney

The cost is the only real drawback of hiring a private attorney to handle your criminal case. But, given the seriousness of criminal charges, the advantages of hiring a private defense attorney can significantly outweigh this drawback. The following are some of the benefits of hiring a private defense attorney:

  • Time: A private attorney ensure that they will have enough time to spend on your case because they control their own workload.
  • Freedom of choice: You can choose the private defense attorney you want to represent you. Finding an attorney you trust, and can build a working relationship with, is key to a satisfactory representation.
  • Guidance: Private attorneys simply have more time to dedicate to each representation.

Contact an Indianapolis Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you’re facing criminal charges and are looking to hire a private defense attorney, contact our skilled Indianapolis criminal defense lawyers at Rigney Law LLC to schedule a free consultation.

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