Interviewer: The court will assign a public defender when someone has a crime or they’ll give someone that option. What would be the difference between having a private attorney and a public defender?
Paul Tafelski: First of all if you do get a public defender you have to demonstrate to the court that you are legally indigent that you cannot afford your own attorney. Otherwise they’re not supposed to even appoint someone for you. Second, if they do appoint somebody for you, you still don’t get someone to meet with you at the arraignment
When someone gets appointed they don’t come onto the case until after they arraignment. You won’t have anybody there at the arraignment. After that it just depends, it’s hit or miss whether the person who’s been appointed is someone who is going to take the time to really know you, know your case, whether they’re competent and experienced or whether they’re overworked or inexperienced. There’s no telling what you’re going to get with a court appointed attorney. Some could do a very good job and some could be horrible you just don’t know. You don’t have any choice or control over the matter.
There’s really no way to know. I’m not somebody who goes around bashing court appointed counsel or anything because some of them are quite good. The problem is usually there’s no way they have the time to really get into your case on the same level as someone who is being paid a fair fee to handle things. In my experience, the more you know about the client and they’re unique situation, their unique needs, and the real nitty gritty details of their case, that’s how you figure out the best ways to obtain the best results.
It all depends. There’s many ways to waste your money on retained counsel just as there’s many ways to not get the best representation with court appointed. It is critical for the client to be able to figure out how to hire somebody who really knows what they’re doing and wants to do a good job for them.
A Private Retained Defense Attorney Has More Time to Focus on the Case and is more available for the Client
Interviewer: With a question of availability, you would be a lot more available than a public defender.
Paul Tafelski: Typically, yes. Like I said you could find a court appointed attorney that is available and you can find a retain attorney that’s no available but if you were talking in generalizations that’s one of the bigger complaints that I’ve always heard from clients who have experienced both ways.
Important Factors to Consider When Deciding to Hire a Private Criminal Defense Attorney
Interviewer: What kind of credentials should I be looking for when interviewing attorneys to possibly represent me and at the same time what are some warning signs that that I should be aware of as well?
Paul Tafelski: I think you’re looking for experience in the area of law where you have your problem. You’re looking for experience and relationships with the court where you’re going to be having your case. You’re looking for someone who you can relate to, who seems to get what you’re saying, and who you understand as well. I think the client should be listening to the ideas and the thoughts that the attorney has and see if they are engaged and knowledgeable. Possibly referrals from other people who are knowledgeable can be important.
Oftentimes, I see people getting referrals from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. I have no idea as to why but it does happen. I think affiliations with organizations such as the criminal law section of the state bar. I’m a member of the National College of DUI Defense and very few people take the time and the energy to be involved and participate in that. Different organizations can also tell you a little bit about the lawyer and what they’re going to bring to the table.