While the criminal justice system is too complex for the average person to understand, most people know that those accused of a crime have the right to an attorney. If someone doesn’t have enough money in their savings account to hire their own defense attorney, state-appointed lawyers, commonly called public defenders, can step in to help counsel someone charged with a crime.
The public defense system is an important protection for those suspected of a criminal offense. Without help, those who are innocent could easily wind up going to jail because they don’t understand the rules of court proceedings or what the law actually prohibits.
While public defenders are a valuable institution in the United States, they often cannot provide their clients with the same quality of representation as a private attorney could provide. There’s one simple explanation for the discrepancy between what a private lawyer and a public defender can offer someone.
Public defenders simply have too many cases to invest in them all
There is far more demand for the help of public defenders than there are resources to expand their services. An analysis of the workload carried by public defenders shows that most of them carry several times the number of cases that they should.
They do this out of necessity, as there is no one else to take those cases. Unfortunately, that means that each of the people depending on their services and expertise will only receive a tiny fraction of their attention. All too often, public defenders will have to rush from client to client, barely aware of what the charge is, let alone all of the relevant precedent that could help with the case.
Every criminal case requires unique consideration and research. A public defender handling dozens of felony cases at one time will not be able to invest enough effort into each case to truly give their clients a solid defense.
Know when you need to get help
Although hiring a criminal defense attorney can be quite expensive for complex felony cases, the people who hire their own lawyer can expect to be the focus of their attorney’s professional efforts. If the case has unique factors or requires expert support, an attorney with more time to commit to the case could be invaluable.
A lawyer that has the time to invest in proper research can assist their clients in creating a defense that might work instead of just pushing someone into a plea bargain because it is the fastest resolution. Especially for those facing allegations of violent crimes, a thorough defense strategy requires the focus and time of an experienced professional.