Public Defender Vs. Private Criminal Defense Attorney: The Pros & Cons


Criminal Defense Attorney


If you’ve been charged with a crime and are faced with the possibility of going to court, one of the most important decisions you will need to make is who you have represent you against the prosecution. Generally, you have two options; a public defender or a private criminal defense attorney. Before you make your final decision on who will be fighting in your corner, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of a public defender versus a private criminal defense attorney.


Public Defender: The Pros & Cons

If you can’t afford to hire a private attorney or request to have a public defender, the court will appoint you with a public defender. Public defenders are usually employees of the state or federal government, depending on the jurisdiction of the case. There are some major advantages of hiring a public defender that shouldn’t be overlooked, these include:

  • No Cost – Probably the biggest advantage of using a public defender on your case is that there is no payment required from the accused person(s).
  • Experience – Many public defenders have worked on many different types of criminal cases, over the years. Public defense is a highly competitive field, so only the best get chose to be public defenders.
  • Relationships – Since public defenders spend so much time in the courtroom, more often than not, they have built extensive relationships with prosecutors. This may help to assist plea bargain negotiations to go smoothly.

The Cons of Hiring a Public Defender

While there are many advantages to hiring a public defender, there are also some major disadvantages.

  • You Get, What You Get – Unlike a private criminal defense attorney, when the court appoints you with a public defender, you’re stuck with them. While sometimes this isn’t a problem, as most public defenders are highly competent lawyers, it can become one if you don’t feel like you can trust the person that is supposed to be “protecting” you.
  • Overworked, Underpaid – Public defenders are government employees, meaning they make less than private criminal defense attorneys. Many people don’t have the money to hire a private attorney, so public defenders have massive caseloads. This could mean potential mistakes and little time to prepare for your case.


Private Attorney: The Pros & ConsCriminal Defense Attorney

A private criminal defense attorney is a lawyer that you or your family has hired to defend you in court. Just like a public defender, there are advantages and disadvantages of hiring a private attorney. The biggest disadvantage of hiring a private attorney is the cost. Depending on the severity of the case and how long court proceedings take, hiring a private attorney can be expensive. However, the advantages of hiring of private criminal defense attorney greatly outweigh this disadvantage.

The Pros of Hiring A Private Attorney

Since the defendant is paying for the legal fees when they hire a private criminal defense attorney, the advantages are many, these include:

  • One-on-one-time – Private attorneys choose what cases they want to work, this means that they have a much smaller caseload then public defenders. With less cases to work on, they are able to spend a greater amount of time discussing all the nuances of your case. This extra time may be just what you need to either win your case, reduce your charges, or get the case dropped completely.
  • Resources – Your private attorney may be able to hire expert witness that can help with the defense. Additionally, private labs may be hired out to test evidence against the defense, as well as, private investigators.
  • Easy To Contact – Criminal defense attorneys are easier to get ahold of the public defenders. Your attorney can easily be reached at his or her office or by any other means they have given you permission to contact them by.
  • Reputation – As a private attorney, criminal defense lawyers have a reputation to uphold if they want to be recommended to work on cases. This means that they will fight harder to ensure that the results from your trial are positive and that you are taken care of before, during, and after the court proceedings.


If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, you need to act fast to find the right defense for you. Choose an attorney that will take the time to make sure that all possible avenues have been examined thoroughly in order to win your case.