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Why Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer is Better than getting a Court-appointed Lawyer


As they say, you get what you pay for in this life.  That being said, however, what is your freedom and future worth?  These are important considerations when asking yourself why hiring a criminal defense lawyer is better than getting a court-appointed lawyer.  If you are facing serious criminal charges, or any criminal charges really, exploring the options available when it comes to assembling a legal team to help fight these charges in court.  While it is a bad idea to speak with a police officer without your attorney present, it is equally unadvisable to speak with a police officer without an attorney that you know you can trust will remember the details of your case when those facts matter.

The Problem with Public Defenders

It Is no secret that the nation’s cadre of public defenders are overworked and underappreciated.  Indeed, as a recent report notes, “public defender offices across the country are chronically understaffed and overworked.”

One example used to highlight this problem includes the fact that almost three-quarters of offices, or 73%, surpassed the maximum recommended active cases of 150 felonies or 400 classified misdemeanor cases.  Not surprisingly as a result, the vast majority of public defenders are opening your file mere moments before walking into court.  Needless to say, this does not allow for much trial preparation.

Rather, most public defenders will seek to plea the charges down to something more palatable in the interested of securing a lesser conviction and moving the case along the docket.  Unfortunately, a lesser conviction is still a conviction.

While your attorney will turn to the next file in his aforementioned large caseload, you will have to go out into the world with a criminal conviction to reckon with as you try and find employment, housing, and government benefits that you would otherwise be entitled to receive.

While felonies are a major hit on your criminal record, misdemeanor convictions can have an enormous impact on your life.  Risking that future to the hands of an overworked and indifferent defense attorney is not in your best interest.

The Role of a Court Appointed Attorney That’s Not a Public Defender

An important distinction that must be made regarding legal counsel under your Sixth Amendment right to an attorney is the difference found between a public defender and the role played by a court-appointed attorney.  While the former works for the government, and earns a paycheck regardless of whether his or her clients is convicted or walks, the latter represents a private attorney that will still charge an hourly rate for their legal services but will be paid by the county on a case-by-case basis.

While this form of representation is better than being crowded on the busy schedule of an overworked and harried public defender, it still raises the question of whether you would be better served by hiring a criminal defense lawyer rather than availing yourself of the court-appointed counsel from private practice.

This is an excellent question

The biggest problem noted by criminal defendants is the cost associated with such a legal move.  As mentioned above, however, you get what you pay for and your freedom is worth the extra cost of obtaining a criminal defense team.  Also, typically speaking, this is the sole complaint suggesting that getting loss in the shuffle of a huge caseload is not part of the problem.

Equally important, you get to choose the team that represents and fights for your interests in court.  Every crime is a specialty, and those in the business of defending those criminally charged also tend to specialize in particular crimes and criminal defendants.

As an example, the nation’s leading tax fraud defense attorney in the nation still might not be your selection if you were to face capital murder charges for instance.  You get to choose.  As such, you can tailor your attorney search to find the best specialist in your particular area of legal concern, which will help when you begin preparing your criminal defense.

By contrast, when it comes to assigning a court-appointed attorney to represent your case, you have no input into the selection process. Moreover, once that selection has been made, it is extremely difficult to be granted new counsel in the event of problems with the existing attorney/client relationship.

The Advantages of Focused Legal Expertise

When it comes to seeking out a criminal defense attorney, you absolutely want to focus your search on those who specialize in the type of criminal case that you are confronting.  The reason for that is the fact that legal expertise focused on a typical type of criminal defense helps eliminate many of the pratfalls that might stymie the novice or uninitiated attorney.  In the realm of criminal defense, these pratfalls take the form of aggravating factors and enhancement charges.

Aggravating factors and enhancement charges can add substantially to any potential penalty.  Having a seasoned attorney by your side that specializes in these types of charges is crucial.  As an example, an aggravating factor in a DUI arrest might be the fact that you had a child in the car at the time you were pulled over.  This boost the seriousness of the charge while necessitating a harsher sentence.  Likewise, committing a robbery while using a gun serves as an immediate aggravating factor, and risks enhanced penalties if convicted.  Having an attorney, selected by you, for your particular case owing to their expertise in such cases is a sound legal move.  The discretion to make that choice is lost when you accept a court-appointed attorney over the option of hiring your own private lawyer.

Examples abound within the legal system when it comes to the deleterious effects of aggravating factors in the conviction and sentencing arrangement in the nation’s courts.  Towards that end, let us drive the point home with a listing of basic factors that can lead to enhanced sentencing guidelines.

  • Carrying a deadly weapon—elevates any potential charge to aggravated assault.  This third-degree felony can earn a five-year prison term, a $5,000 fine, and a further five years of formal probation.
  • Injuring someone in the commission of a felony—is an enhancement that can earn the convicted a third-degree felony conviction.
  • Deadly weapon or a date rape drug—during the commission of a sexual assault provides for a sentencing enhancement of 30 years to life in prison.

As you can see, the consequences for aggravating factors can be immense.  They represent cases where the government wants to make a strong statement against the commission of such crimes.  While the aforementioned list highlights the sentencing of violent criminal offenders, the process is no more lenient towards those accused of white-collar crimes either.  Indeed, the law carves out special enhancement for white-collar crimes that target the elderly, veterans, or large groups indicating an ongoing criminal enterprise.

Don’t risk your freedom when it comes to fighting criminal charges that can land you in prison for decades.  Securing a private criminal defense attorney, rather than relying on a court-appointed attorney, might be the best decision that you have ever made.

Select a Team You Trust with an Attorney Specializing in Your Case

If you have been arrested for a criminal offense, felony, or misdemeanor, you will want to receive competent legal counsel that you can trust to navigate the storm of legal waters that is headed your way.  Here at Michael Panella Law Office, we specialize in criminal law cases.

Our team of trained investigators and attorneys understand what is at stake for you and your family in the event of a criminal conviction, and our team is ready to mount a robust defense on day one of your case.  Unlike an overtaxed, overworked, understaffed, and underfunded public defender’s office, we always put the full resources of our office and team to help you resolve complex legal matters, so if you are wondering when to hire a private attorney, you should retain one the moment criminal charges are filed

Contact our team here at Michael Panella Law Office so we can begin planning your criminal defense.  Don’t leave your freedom to chance when faced with criminal charges.  The implications can extend beyond the fines, fees, and penalties assigned by the court, but it can also lead to incarceration and a criminal record that will only haunt you and your family.

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