Criminal Defense Attorneys Vs. Public Defenders: Understanding The Complicated Business Of Criminal Defense Law
The imprecision of titling lawyers and attorneys who defend those charged with criminal activity is a hotly debated issue in legal circles. However, you should never allow that issue to deprive you of good legal counsel when you are faced with fines and/or prison time. When you are confused about who to obtain or retain for your defense, a criminal defense attorney or a public defender, here is the explanation of the two and how to understand the complicated business of criminal defense law.
The Criminal Defense Attorney
The criminal defense attorney defends anyone charged with a crime. Yet, there are all kinds of criminal defense attorneys. Some defend white-collar criminals charged with extortion, inside trading, embezzlement, etc. Some defend those charged with blue-collar crimes, like murder, assault, rape, and kidnapping/abduction. Some have their own practices, while others work for bigger law firms that handle a number of different kinds of criminal cases. They require a retainer and you will have to pay them by the quarter, half, or full hour, as their practices require. Still, when given the option of avoiding prison and fines, you would probably prefer to be properly defended in court and pay your lawyer all that money instead.
The Public Defender
The public defender is free legal counsel given by the courts to people are indigent (i.e., unable to pay for a lawyer, but have every legal right to legal counsel). The courts have a long list of public defenders who are on rotation for assignment to those needing a lawyer and cannot afford one. The public defenders are criminal defense attorneys, but in the more general sense because they defend anyone charged with any sort of crime. It is not the ideal situation, but it is definitely better than not having a lawyer in court to defend you at all.
Those Operating as Both Public Defender and Criminal Defense Attorney
There are actually law firms that volunteer their criminal defense attorneys as public defenders. These lawyers typically work for a criminal law firm Monday through Friday, but their law firms have chosen to volunteer a percentage of their time to the local courts to work as public defenders. They enter into an agreement with the court system for this arrangement and they place themselves in the rotational list for indigent clients. Ergo, if you end up with a public defender who works for a major law firm but is currently defending you, it should not surprise you in the least.