On occasion, a potential client meets with us after already receiving a court-appointed attorney. In almost every consultation of this sort, they want a second opinion because they do not completely agree with the advice of the court-appointed attorney, or they do not want a public defender. This article is intended to help potential clients understand the benefits of a private attorney for criminal defense and DUII cases.
- Access to your Attorney
The number one reason criminal defendants look for a privately retained attorney is because they want to reach their attorney more easily. A public defender or court-appointed attorney can have a caseload anywhere between 75 to 400 clients, depending on the county. Because a court-appointed attorney has so many clients, they are usually booked with appointments two weeks or more in advance, and it’s difficult for the attorney to call you back. A retained attorney, on the other hand, controls his or her own caseload, and may have as few as 40 cases pending at a time. This represents the classic “quality over quantity” approach to criminal defense.
- Case Analysis
Another reason criminal defendants may look for a privately retained attorney is because they want their case reviewed more carefully. Some court-appointed criminal defense attorneys review the police reports once, and sometimes that can be during the first appointment with the client. While this is not always the case, a court-appointed attorney may miss some important details because reviewing the case is such a quick process. With a retained attorney, reviewing the case does not need to be done immediately. A retained attorney will review the case carefully to check each little detail to the case. Further, our attorneys will often provide a written summary of the case, highlighting where the strengths and weaknesses are to the particular case.
- Trial Preparation
Another reason criminal defendants may look for a privately retained attorney is because they will get better trial representation. Court-appointed attorneys often take more cases to trial per year than a retained attorney. However, because the court-appointed attorneys have such a higher caseload, they often cannot dedicate entire days to preparing for trial because they have so many other cases that need their attention. With a retained attorney, the smaller caseload means the attorney can spend more time preparing for trial, preparing witnesses, and preparing motions that will limit the evidence the State can present during the trial. This makes it easier for the retained attorney to provide the best representation and put you in the best place possible to potentially win your case.
- 4. Case Complexity
Court appointed attorneys typically only work in a single county. This means that they become very familiar with the practices of a single court and a limited number of Judges. As with most experience in life, having various experiences over multiple courts, can make a difference in complex cases. For example, it is not unusual for individuals to have cases in more than one county – especially adjacent counties like Marion & Polk, Linn & Benton, Clackamas and the metro area. With court appointed attorneys, your lawyer only represents you in a single county. This makes it very difficult to resolve multiple county cases in the best way possible. With a retained attorney you will have the same attorney handling multiple cases. This helps ensure that you don’t get “lost in the system” and that decisions in once case don’t have unforeseen consequences in your other cases.
- 5. Experience
Many appointed attorneys are new attorneys who are just starting out in the practice of law. With time comes experience, and with experience comes a higher quality of representation. However, it is not just your attorney’s level of experience that is important. You are the client, and your experience is of critical importance. A review of our success stories and our client reviews demonstrates the level of representation we offer our clients. A court appointed attorney has a duty to provide “constitutionally adequate defense.” We just don’t think “adequate” should be the term used to describe your criminal defense case.