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Why Hire a Private Criminal Defense Attorney?
Why should I choose to hire a private criminal defense lawyer (as opposed to being represented by a public defender)?
I get this question quite a bit. Working with private defense counsel really has an advantage, just based on the amount of personal attention that you get. That’s probably the most significant difference between working with a private defense attorney and, perhaps, a very busy public defender. I, myself, was a public defender for several years after graduating from law school, in Montgomery County Maryland, and I know that I did my very best to provide all of my clients with a great deal of attention when I was working on their case. But could also say that I sometimes was representing 60 to 80 people a week on criminal charges in the Montgomery County District Court, and, obviously, as one person, that didn’t allow me a great deal of time to spend with each client and to really be able to represent somebody in the capacity that I knew that I wanted to, every single time.
Certainly, in the situation that I’m in right now, being a private defense attorney affords me more of an opportunity to really spend time with my clients and time with the issues that are associated with their cases and represent them the best way that I know that I can. There certainly is never anything negative to say about a public defender. As I said, having been one for several years out of law school, I can say that I worked with some of the most intelligent attorneys and probably learned the most in those three years than I did doing any other job or spending time in any classrooms, in my life. But, again, the amount of time and personal attention I could dedicate to a case was just not what I, necessarily, would have wanted to be able to do, and certainly not how I’m able to operate now, being a private defense counsel.
Why shouldn’t I just represent myself?
Attention to detail: “the average client isn’t going to realize the particular nuances”
Constitutionally, while people do have the right to represent themselves, the nature of a criminal charge is so complicated that the average client isn’t going to realize the particular nuances of a case that can affect the outcome of the case—nuances like admissibility of evidence, or the way in which a police officer is conducting themselves during the course of the arrest, or the manner in which discovery is provided, or the timeliness with which it is provided by the prosecutor’s office. Some of these issues can actually steer a case that might seem like a slam-dunk for the state into a full-on dismissal or a finding of “not guilty,” if somebody is able to work with a defense attorney. I think a lot of people who might consider representing themselves fail to realize just how valuable working with a defense attorney can be in those particular situations.
The knowledge of a private criminal defense attorney at work
For example, I was in court yesterday and there was a person who was representing themselves on a disorderly conduct case, before the judge, and the judge was really encouraging the person saying, “We should probably not go to trial today. You may want to really think about talking to a defense attorney,” and I happened to be standing in the courtroom at the time and having a long professional relationship with the judge. The judge pointed me out and said, “Let’s take a recess for a minute and why don’t you talk to Mr. Arora, in the back of the courtroom and see if you might be convinced that working with an attorney is important,” and, within about three or four minutes of talking to this woman, while the judge was in recess, I was able to identify two problems with the state’s case, and, when the judge came back on the bench, I was able to talk to the prosecutor and have the charges dismissed against the person, and, had that not happened, the prosecution was seeking jail time against this woman for this particular charge. So, I think, again, while people may think the state has a great case against them, they won’t really understand what is associated with a prosecution or a particular criminal charge until they’ve spoken with an attorney who has the experience and understanding to know exactly how the rules of evidence work and what the states burden exactly is when they are attempting to go forward in a criminal proceeding.