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Why Not The Public Defender?

There are a few reasons why most people prefer not to engage The Public Defender. Before we discuss this however, we must give the Public Defender's Office their due. Public Defenders on the whole, are not bad attorneys. Depending upon which Deputy Public Defender you're talking about, he/she could and often does have a good amount of trial and pre-trial experience.

The problems with retaining the services of the Public Defender's Office are chiefly four fold:

Time Constraints - the average Deputy Public Defender has near as many cases as does the prosecutor. This means, that he/she can have literally dozens to hundreds of open files (clients). The problem with being short handed and overburdened, is that the Deputy Public Defender must prioritize how much time he/she expends on a particular case, usually based upon how serious the penalties can be. This means, that DUI cases take a 'back seat' to more serious crimes that require large jail or prison penalties (robbery, burglary, rape, murder etc...). Also, the first day of court is usually the first day that the Public Defender sees your file and the next court date you are likely to have a totally different Public Defender.

Lack of Significant Experience- although some Deputy Public Defenders have a good deal of experience, they chiefly obtain it 'on the job'; they have to start somewhere. Many times, they start straight out of law school and get a job with the County as a Deputy Public Defender. The problem is, if your DUI is not a felony (more serious DUI), they many times give the case as a training tool to the less experienced Deputy Public Defender; Figuring, if they lose, there is no significant jail penalty to befall the client. No great consolation to you though.

Client Must Qualify - A person seeking legal representation can not retain the Public Defender simply to avoid paying a private attorney. The Public Defender is appointed by the Judge for one of two reasons:

  1. The applying client is in jail- no matter who you are or how much money you have, even Bill Gates gets the option of retaining a Public Defender if in jail at the time of the request.
  2. Indigence- The Poor. If a person is out of custody and wishes to retain the services of the Public Defender, he/she must fill out a financial & asset disclosure. Basically, if you have any kind of an income (even as low as $6000.00 per year), own a house, own a car, anything showing an ability to pay, then you will not qualify for the Public Defender and The Judge will order you to represent yourself or retain Private Counsel.

DMV Hearing - Since the DMV hearing for your license is an administrative hearing and not criminal in nature, the Public Defender does not represent you in this capacity whatsoever.

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The Legal Rights Advocates DUI Attorney
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