What’s the difference between a public defender and a private attorney in Fort Lauderdale and South Florida?
The biggest differences between a public defender and a private criminal defense attorney are the time and the resources they have.
A public defender is employed by the state of Florida. Florida Public Defenders are required to take every case assigned to them.
What does that mean? It means public defenders have a HUGE caseload. They might be assigned to upwards of 200 cases at a time.
And the more cases a public defender has, the less time they are going to spend on your criminal case. Public Defenders can be great lawyers – we know many public defenders that we respect greatly and do a fantastic job.
But, as stated above – the issue isn’t that they’re not great lawyers nor capable – the issue is that they simply don’t have the time to devote to your case that a private attorney will have. Public defenders don’t have the resource of time to spend as much time as is needed for the best result on your case. They may spend all the time they CAN on your case – but it doesn’t mean that’s the same as giving your case all the time & attention it needs. Not because they’re not great lawyers, but simply because the state gives them an unrealistic case load.
A public defender might miss a critical element just because they’re so bogged down with other cases. Also—a public defender gets paid the same amount no matter how many cases they get stuck with, or how many cases they win/lose. They don’t have the same incentive to help you – they’re not rewarded monetarily with big case wins, and are not paid more if they have a larger case load. They also don’t have a business based on referrals – which means they might not have as many amicable relationships with prosecutors or other attorneys.
You want a criminal defense attorney who has a long-term interest in your success, and unfortunately, public defenders don’t. Mostly because they don’t have the time to, and there are not the same reward or relational mechanisms in place to reward them getting you the best possible case outcome as a private attorney.
Another main point to consider is that a private attorney has to work for and earn the trust of every client who hires them. Whereas a public defender is simply assigned cases. They don’t have to work to get you, or to keep you, as a client.
Public defenders in South Florida also have fewer resources than private attorneys. Their means of helping you are limited by what the state gives them access to. They don’t have an array of superior resources available such as private investigators, for example, the way a private attorney in Florida does.
The best legal defenses take a lot of careful time and research. That’s why you are better off going with a private criminal attorney –one who can devote as much time as is necessary to win your case, or at least ensure you get the best possible result, and who has the resources to get the job done right.