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The Benefit of Hiring a Private Criminal Attorney
Kush Arora: You are given a couple of different options after you’re charged with a criminal offense. Constitutionally, you’re free to represent yourself in criminal court. That means that you are entitled to walk into a courtroom, make the same demands that a defense attorney makes, have a trial, ask the state’s witnesses questions, call your own witnesses, and testify in your own defense if you elect to do so.
However, most people who are charged with a criminal offense do not have the training to try cases. They have not taken all of the exams where they have been required to demonstrate that they understand the rules of evidence, the rules of criminal procedure, and the elements of particular criminal offenses. Those who walk into court without an attorney, particularly in criminal cases, should not expect that the judge or any other finder of fact would do them any favors simply because they were representing themselves. On the contrary, most people will find that if they represent themselves in a criminal case, judges will ask them an intense series of questions to make sure that they’re expressly waiving their right to counsel and urge them to hire an attorney who can be of assistance to them in a trial or in whatever capacity the case is in moving forward.
Another option if a person cannot afford to hire an attorney is that constitutionally they have a right to a public defender. Public defenders are lawyers and they’re very good lawyers. They have a great deal of experience handling all kinds of criminal cases and oftentimes many members of the private bar have worked as public defenders in the past, as I did. The main difference that exists between public defenders and private defense attorneys, particularly at the misdemeanor level, is the amount of time that might be available to them to dedicate to your case. Public defenders often have 10, 15, or 20 cases that they are tasked with resolving, particularly at the misdemeanor level, on any given day in court. That is through no fault of their own, but that means that they may not have as much of an opportunity to work with you in advance of the court date to prepare for the case. There are good reasons to hire a private defense attorney that go beyond that, but the most important reason is the amount of time that a private defense attorney is able to dedicate to your case.