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March 23, 2018 |

New York Public Defender v. Private Attorney: Make the Right Choice

If you are charged with a crime in New York and have the opportunity to have a lawyer defend you for free, it may seem like an offer you can’t refuse. After all, hiring a private New York criminal defense attorney to handle your case could cost thousands of dollars. But never forget that your freedom and your future are at stake when facing aggressive prosecutors determined to convict you. If you decide to rely on a public defender to fight your charges when you can retain a private defense lawyer, you may be making a big mistake.

That’s not because the lawyers who work at the public defender’s office aren’t skilled or hard-working – most of them are. But the nature of the system is such that these lawyers may not have the time or ability to give your case the attention it needs and deserves. 

Under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, every criminal defendant has the right to counsel. When you hear an officer on a TV cop show tell an arrestee that they “have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you…,” they are referring to the Sixth Amendment.  

While this sounds good in theory, in practice it doesn’t work as well. For many reasons, the public defender system is fragile and may not afford defendants a truly robust defense. The American Bar Association, like many other observers of the system, have identified fundamental issues which undermine the effectiveness of public defenders, including:

  • They are saddled with unreasonably high workloads
  • They are denied adequate funding and resources
  • They are plagued with judicial or political interference and a lack of independence
  • They are deprived of sufficient training, supervision, and client communication

Breaking these issues down, here are three reasons you should think twice about relying on a public defender:

No time to prepare.

Preparing a solid defense takes time. But public defenders may have hundreds of cases to handle at the same time, with a constant and overwhelming stream of new defendants and cases every day. This means that they may have only minutes to look at, prepare for, and strategize about your case.

No resources.

A robust defense often requires resources other than just a good lawyer. Investigators, expert witnesses, tracking down eyewitnesses or others take not only time, but money. A lack of funding and other resources means that public defenders often don’t have the tools they need to mount an effective defense.

Pressure to plead guilty.

With so many cases to handle and more coming all the time, public defenders understandably want to close and resolve as many cases as they can as quickly as they can. The pressure to keep things moving can often lead to pressuring a defendant to plead guilty, even when that may not be the best course of action.

If you can find a way, retaining an experienced Brooklyn criminal defense attorney who has the skill, time, and resources to provide you with personal attention and an effective defense is the best decision you can make to protect your future.

At Epstein & Conroy, P.C., we built our careers by working tirelessly to win favorable results for our clients, whether through plea negotiations or at trial. We apply our experience and dedication to every case we handle, and we always endeavor to make our services accessible and affordable.

Please call (718) 852-6763 to arrange for your free initial consultation with one of Epstein & Conroy’s experienced New York City criminal defense attorneys today.

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