Gideon’s Law states that under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, every state has an obligation to provide counsel in criminal cases to represent those defendants who can’t afford to hire a private attorney.
However, many people have a misunderstanding of the public defense system and do not realize that choosing a public defender over a private attorney can be very hurtful to the outcome of their case resulting in a higher chance of being convicted as well as more severe punishment during sentencing.
Anyone who is in need of a defense lawyer should consider every aspect of using the public defense system. There are some serious issues plaguing the system including the fact that public defense lawyers are given hundreds upon hundreds of cases over the course of a year. This only allows lawyers enough time to spend 2 hours or less on each case.
In some cases a public defender technically has only minutes to spend on each assigned case and is given more than 800 cases annually. More than half of the countries legal systems also prevent public defenders from refusing to take on additional new cases.
With such minimal amount of time dedicated to each client, many defendants are simply encouraged to enter a guilty plea for the sake of resolving the case even if they might have otherwise had a relatively high chance of successfully fighting the charges against them.
Another large issue with the public defense system is a severe lack of funding. The result is that defenders do not have the necessary means to access certain resources that could make or break a case such as legal research, investigators and field experts.
More importantly, due to the problems with funding, those who are under the impression that they will save loads of money by using a public defender may be disappointed after finding themselves having to pay high amounts of court fees.
According to NPR, there has been a huge growth in the use of court fines and fees to finance the criminal justice system and other state programs. An NPR survey found that 43 states require defendants to pay fees in order to have a public defender represent them in court.
With a private attorney, there is no need to be concerned about those issues that are all too common in the public defense system. Opting to hire a private attorney gives the defendant a greater fighting chance of winning their case and saves him/her from having to worry about whether or not they are receiving the best representation in court.
Private attorneys have the education, time and resources to spend working each client’s case and will fight to get the best outcome possible in court.