Comparing Public Defenders And Private Criminal Defense Attorneys In Texas
Americans have a Constitutional right under the Sixth Amendment to an attorney if they are charged with a crime and face potential jail time. If a person cannot afford a lawyer on their own, they have a right to have one appointed for them at government expense. This right was clarified in the 1963 case of Gideon v. Wainwright, which held that indigent (low-income) Defendants have rights under both the Sixth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause to have legal representation in any trial against them where confinement is a potential punishment.
Texas applies this rule through its own Fair Defense Laws and Code of Criminal Procedure. Accused Defendants in Texas have the right to a speedy and public trial, and to have the assistance of counsel (and have counsel appointed if they cannot afford a lawyer).
When Does the Court Appoint a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
If a Defendant is determined to be “indigent” – meaning they are not financially able to pay a lawyer at the time of their arraignment – the court will appoint counsel for them. This may be a full-time public defender, or a private attorney that contracts with the county.
The court-appointed attorney is required to meet with the defendant before court hearings and help them prepare a defense for their case. Some Defendants are comfortable with court-appointed counsel, and others may try to seek private counsel even if they were initially appointed a public defender. This is because there are some “pros and cons” with either approach.
Benefits of a Public Defender in Texas
A public defender appointed to the Defendant’s case is a capable attorney that can help an accused Defendant navigate their case and prepare for trial. One obvious benefit is cost – this is covered by the government and not the Defendant themselves. In some cases, this may appear to be the best and only option for a Defendant.
A public defender also has knowledge of the court’s procedures in your particular area, and familiarity with the judges and prosecutors involved with your case. This may help in negotiating settlements and plea agreements, for example.
Benefits of a Private Criminal Defense Attorney in Texas
Unlike a court-appointed attorney, private criminal defense attorneys can set their own caseloads and take only the cases they have time to thoroughly prepare for. A common issue with public defenders is that they are constantly overworked, trying to manage your case along with maybe hundreds of other cases that are pending at any time. A private attorney may be more readily available for meetings, phone calls, and any questions you may have. This attorney may have more time and resources at their disposal as well, including a staff that can put as much time and attention into your case as possible.
While public defenders know the judges and prosecutors well because they work with them every week, sometimes this familiarity can be a disadvantage for Defendants. Court-appointed attorneys may be more willing to finalize plea agreements that end up pleasing the judge and prosecutor more than their client. The working relationship between public defenders, prosecutors, and court staff sometimes comes at a cost to an individual Defendant caught up in the system.
A skilled and experienced Texas criminal defense attorney will charge fees to build and maintain a robust defense of your case. That is an inconvenient but necessary fact. This may be a small price to pay, however, for a vigorous defense when your liberty is on the line. If the outcomes involve potential jail time and serious fines, you want an attorney that cares about you and your case, and will take the time to address each of your concerns.
Our Pearland, Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Cares About You and Your Case, and Will Fight Hard to Achieve the Best Outcome Possible
Many people that have public defenders appointed to them will still consider hiring a private attorney, for any number of reasons. The most important reason is your personal liberty, freedom, and Constitutional rights in a criminal trial. You want an attorney that will take extra time and fight with you every step of the way. The Pearland criminal lawyers at Keith B. French Law will make the effort to get to know you, as well as all facts and evidence in your case. To learn more about our approach to your case, contact us today.