If you’ve ever seen a movie or television show where someone gets arrested, you likely know that the right to an attorney or legal representation when facing criminal charges is one of your fundamental rights as an American citizen. That is why the right is included in the Miranda warning that law enforcement officers must recite or read to those under arrest before interrogation or questioning.
However, just because you have the right to an attorney provided by the state does not always mean a public defender will give you quality representation. Hiring a defense attorney of your own can be expensive, but as with most things in life, when it comes to your defense against pending criminal charges, you often get what you pay for.
Public defenders often have more work than time
Many attorneys fresh out of law school start their career by serving as a public defender. Others who already have a successful and lucrative career may choose to give back to the community by offering their services pro bono as a public defender occasionally. Unfortunately, public defenders often have to carry far more cases than they can reasonably handle on their own.
Each case will require careful investigation into both the criminal code and the legal precedent set in similar cases. Public defenders, who often have dozens of pending trials, don’t always have time to devote to each client. Public defender offices are often short-staffed and underfunded, meaning no one gets a particularly strong defense from them.
Public defenders can easily get burned out and stop believing in their clients
You know that you’re innocent and need to fight the charges you currently face, but your public defender may not feel the same way. You want to go to court knowing that the person representing and defending you is in your corner and on your side.
Public defenders who work long hours in a thankless job may eventually start to resent their clients and find themselves not believing them, even if their client has completely legitimate reasons to push back against the crimes they face. An attorney paid to defend someone will have a more vested interest in providing a reliable and competitive defense.