Public Defender VS Private DUI Attorney

Many people who are charged with DUIs in Pennsylvania wonder whether they should hire private defense lawyers or instead be represented by the public defender’s office. Some people are unsure about what a public defender is and the types of qualifications a public defender has to represent people charged with crimes.

There are benefits of opting to be represented by a private attorney as well as benefits of choosing to be represented by a public defender. This means that there is not a right or wrong answer to this question, but there are some basic things you should understand when deciding whether to go with a public defender or a private defense lawyer. Here is some information from DiCindio Law to help you understand the differences and which choice might be right for you.

What Is a Public Defender?

A public defender is a lawyer who works for the County Public Defender’s office. While some people mistakenly believe that public defenders are not real attorneys, they are. Like other lawyers, public defenders must attend law school, graduate, pass the bar exam, and be licensed to practice law. These lawyers focus on representing people who are charged with crimes but who cannot afford to hire private attorneys to represent them.

Before you can choose to be represented by a public defender, you must meet the income guidelines. Even if you believe you cannot afford a lawyer, that is not enough to qualify to be represented by a public defender. Instead, your income must fall under a specific amount for a family of your family’s size before the court will appoint the public defender’s office to represent you. If you meet the income guidelines, you will not be able to choose the particular public defender who will represent you. Instead, the County Public Defender will choose which lawyer to assign to your case.

By contrast, if you decide to retain a private attorney, you will have the opportunity to interview prospective attorneys, check their resumes and backgrounds, consider their levels of experience, and choose the particular attorney you believe is best prepared to handle your case

What Are Some of the Benefits of Choosing a Private Attorney?

As previously stated, both public defenders and private lawyers are licensed attorneys who are legally authorized to represent people in criminal court. However, public defenders are not allowed to handle related issues outside of the criminal court system. In DUI cases, for example, public defenders cannot appear at administrative hearings to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license or to help you obtain a hardship license.

While these types of matters are related to your DUI, they are civil proceedings that occur within the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation instead of the criminal court.
The ability to challenge a suspension of your driver’s license is important. It is difficult to get to the places you need to go if your license is suspended. A private Chester County DUI lawyer can file an appeal for the suspension of your license and appear at the driver’s license hearing to fight for your driving privileges. Your private attorney can also use the driver’s license hearing to question the police officers involved in your case under oath without the presence of a prosecutor. The testimony the officer gives at the driver’s license hearing can be useful in a later motion hearing or trial when the officer subsequently testifies because your lawyer can use the earlier statements under oath to cross-examine the officer.

Private defense attorneys can also handle communications with the insurance company for you if you had an accident. Whenever an accident occurs, the insurance company will want to speak to the driver. You must be cautious about the statements you make to an insurance company because the prosecutor can use anything you say against you in your criminal case. While you need to be careful about what you say, you can’t avoid talking to your insurance company because it might drop your coverage. A DUI defense lawyer can help you to navigate this process and help you to ensure that you have continued coverage after an accident without saying something that might later be used against you in court.

Differences Between Public Defenders and Private Defense Lawyers

The primary differences between public defenders and private attorneys include their levels of experience and the size of their caseloads. Public defenders cannot control the sizes of their caseloads, and many public defender’s offices are not sufficiently funded. This means that public defender’s offices often do not have enough money to hire additional lawyers to keep their caseloads at manageable levels. A public defender practicing in misdemeanor court might represent hundreds of people simultaneously and a dozen DUIs in a single day. This means that a public defender will likely be stretched thin and not have enough time to carefully examine each case assigned to him or her.

By contrast, private defense lawyers can keep their caseloads to manageable levels. Private attorneys normally restrict the number of cases they accept so that they have enough time to carefully examine the issues in each one. Keeping a smaller caseload also gives the private attorney the ability to effectively communicate with each client. Since public defenders are very busy, many people who are represented by them complain about having trouble getting ahold of their lawyers.

Another key difference between public defenders and private lawyers is the level of experience. Many lawyers who work as public defenders are relatively new attorneys who are hired straight out of law school. This means that they have not had enough time to build courtroom and trial experience and might not be familiar with the best ways to build a strong defense. Private defense attorneys often have a greater level of experience than they built before entering private practice.

Contact Our DUI Law Firm in West Chester, PA

If you are facing criminal charges and need legal help, contact the West Chester, PA DUI lawyers at DiCindioLaw, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

We can review your case and help you to determine the best way to resolve the charges against you, including whether the Chester County DUI program might be an option in your case.

DiCindio Law, LLC

29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 430-3535