Can I get at Public Defender for free?
A Public Defender is legally qualified to defend you, but you must qualify for their services. In order to receive the services of the Public Defender, you must fill out a form for the court which lists all your income and assets. The judge then evaluates your financial statement and decides if you are indigent, and should be appointed a Public Defender. If you earn income that is not WIC, welfare, or other government benefits, you may be required to get a private attorney.
There are also several potential disadvantages to using a Public Defender.
Even if you qualify, the judge can order you to pay back the entire value of the public defender services at the end of the case - hardly free. With the states and counties in a budget crisis, this is becoming more common.
- Public Defenders typically have anywhere from 35 to 50 cases per day, so it is almost impossible to give the personal attention and counseling time that a private attorney does. As a result, your case cannot receiving the full attention you deserves.
- Because of the heavy caseload, there is an incentive for you "just to plead guilty", and get the case taken off their plate, and not deal with it.
- You cannot have the attorney show up for you if you have a public defender, because they want you in court at each appearance.
- You cannot choose the public defender you get, and you may get a different one every time you show up to court.
- In most courts, your Public Defender may never have even met or talked with you before you must appear in court together. If you have questions and concerns before your court date, you may not have the opportunity to get them answered.
- You may find a lack of experience. Misdemeanor cases, including DUI, are often used as a "training ground" for new lawyers, and many new Public Defenders get their first real court experience on your type of case.
- Public Defenders cannot represent you at the DMV. The law does not provide for a free, appointed lawyer at the DMV.