Should I Hire a Public Defender?

  • A Public Defender is appointed by the court and they are not always “free.”

If you plead guilty, no contest, or are later convicted after trial, the court will often order you to pay attorney fees as part of your sentence. So in most cases there is a very good chance you are going to be forced to pay attorney’s fees anyway.

  • You will only receive a Public defender if you are financially unable to retain private counsel.

You must first submit an application to the clerk of the court demonstrating your inability to pay for a private attorney. The application includes details of your financial situation including income, assets, liabilities, the amount of bail posted, and other pertinent information. This means that if you own a home or just have a decent full-time job, the court will tell you to retain your own private criminal attorney. For more information about application requirements you can visit the NC Office of Indigent Defense by clicking here.

  • You will not have a choice as to which lawyer will be assigned to your case.

One of the benefits of private counsel is that you can personally choose an attorney that you are comfortable with. This can mitigate a lot of stress on you and your case, especially when you are facing a pending criminal charge.

  • You will also have to personally show up in court at every proceeding.

On each court date you will need to appear in court and wait your turn with all of the other public defender-represented clients (clients with privately retained counsel may have their attorneys appear in their absence in misdemeanor cases).

  • A public defender office is usually understaffed with attorneys who must deal with staggeringly high, difficult caseloads.

Court Appointed attorneys are excellent lawyers, however they have extremely heavy caseloads and many clients. You may be stuck at court for hours waiting for your attorney, that is if they remember you have court that day. Most importantly, it is very hard for public defenders to maintain a professional level of communication with each and every client they have. Therefore, hearing continuous updates from your attorney may be much more difficult in court appointed relationships.

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