Public Defender vs Private Attorney: Choosing the Best Defense

Have you or someone you know been arrested for a crime? If so, finding the right attorney as soon as possible is important. 

Part of the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees that a person accused of a crime has the right to assistance of counsel in criminal cases, even if they can’t pay for an attorney. If they don’t have the ability to pay, an attorney is appointed to handle their case.

This sounds great in theory. In practice, however, there are big differences between having a public defender vs private attorney represent you. Having a public defender appointed to represent you may not deliver the best results. 

In fact, being represented by a private attorney rather than a public defender increases the chances of avoiding jail time altogether and receiving a shorter jail sentence. The chance comes with a much higher financial cost, unfortunately. This financial cost can make choosing an attorney a very difficult decision.

Below are the pros and cons that explain the differences between the two types of defense council options.

Pros of Being Represented by a Public Defender

A public defender is an attorney who gets appointed to represent a defendant by the court. The court will do this when a defendant requests the court to do so or when a defendant can’t afford to hire their own private attorney.

One of the biggest pros for having a public defender represent you is the cost: they are free. The cost gets paid by the state or federal government, depending on whether it is a state or federal case.

Another pro is that public defenders typically get assigned to a lot of cases. So it doesn’t take long for them to get a lot of experience working with the criminal court system. They get to know the judges and the prosecutors and get exposure to a lot of different types of cases and how those cases get resolved.

Many public defenders choose to work in their area of law because they want to help people. This desire may help provide them with the drive to obtain the best results they can for their clients. 

Cons of Being Represented by a Public Defender

Public defenders are notorious for being overworked. Very often, they handle more cases than they can manage, which causes them to steer defendants into plea bargains in order to lower their workload. Their workload also means they have limited time to spend with the people they represent or work on their cases.

Public defenders get appointed to represent their clients. The appointment may not necessarily be made because the individual public defender is the best lawyer to handle a particular type of criminal case. 

Public defenders’ offices also typically receive less funding than state and federal prosecutors’ offices. Because of this, public defenders often don’t have the resources to hire investigators and conduct the discovery they need in order to properly and competently prepare their cases for trial.

Pros of Hiring a Private Attorney

Unlike public defenders, private attorneys are in control over how many clients they take on at one time, so they can keep their workload to a reasonable level. They have the time to get to know all the details of your case. They can talk to witnesses and visit the scene of the crime.

They also charge for their services, so they can hire additional attorneys and staff for assistance. This helps ensure they have the time and resources available to more competently handle each of their clients’ cases. They can hire experts to prove their case and, most importantly, fight to disprove the prosecution’s case. 

Private attorneys have to compete with other private attorneys to get defendants to hire them. If they don’t build a good reputation for their office or firm, which includes getting their clients out of jail or getting them the shortest sentence possible, they will lose out on future business. 

Private attorneys also have the option to hire trial consultants to help them develop their defense strategy. They can also hire jury consultants to help them pick the best possible jury that will render a verdict in the case. 

Cons of Hiring a Private Attorney

The cost of hiring a private attorney is a huge con. A private attorney may charge an hourly rate, an upfront retainer fee, or a flat fee.

A retainer fee is usually calculated based on the attorney’s hourly rate and how many hours they expect to work on your case. If your case gets resolved sooner than expected, the “unused” retainer fee may or may not be refundable. According to, a typical cost for a criminal attorney per hour is between $150 to $700. 

The payment options for a private attorney will also vary depending on the complexity of the case. If the case is relatively simple, the attorney may charge a flat fee. 

Choosing Between a Public Defender vs Private Attorney

Making the choice between representation by a public defender vs private attorney can make the difference between whether you spend time in jail, how long you spend in jail, and how much it will cost you for your freedom.

Whether you choose a public defender or a private attorney to represent you, getting out of jail on bail can help your case. Posting bail allows defendants the freedom to actively assist their attorney with building a strong defense of their case.

Contact us if you need to post bail for you or someone you know. We’re here to help.

5 Rights You Didn’t Know You had as a Defendant in Court

The rule of law exists to protect us all, including those accused of committing a crime.

And it’s those protections under the law that allow for the right to a fair trial, and the right to remain silent. But what about some of the other defendants’ rights that you might not be aware of?

Here are 5 rights for defendants that you might not have been aware of before.

The Right to a Public Trial

The sixth amendment to the constitution guarantees defendants in a criminal trial the ‘right to a public trial without unnecessary delay.’

If you feel that your case could be subject to undue pressure from the state judiciary, or from other elements, a public trial allows for an open hearing. Your friends and family, legal representatives, and the press will all be allowed to watch proceedings.

This helps to provide you with the fairest possible trial, thanks to the glare of transparency.

Suitable Legal Representation

It is a fundamental right of all citizens that, during legal proceedings, the criminal defendant has the right to suitable legal representation for their circumstances.

The right is protected, even if you cannot afford your own attorney. The state has an obligation to provide you with a representative who will defend you if you cannot afford your own. You also have the right to defend yourself instead.

Additional advice on legal aid and support for low-income families can be found on the US Federal Government website here.

Right to Trial by Jury

Along with the right to a public trial, one of the rights of defendants is the right to a trial by a jury of their peers, but in North Carolina, in certain cases, you’re not obligated to take it.

If you’re charged with a felony, you can decide between a jury trial or a bench trial, where the judge (the ‘bench’) will make the decision on your criminal guilt based on the evidence, instead.

For a misdemeanor charge under a district judge, you can only obtain a trial by jury if you’re convicted and then make an appeal to a higher court.

Reasonable Bail Costs

The eight amendment guarantees that a criminal defendant is not charged an excessive bail bond cost to secure their release pending any trial. It’s an important right to consider, as the alternative is waiting for trial in prison.

If you feel the cost of bail is excessive, your attorney can appeal to another court to lower it.

If you’re wondering whether you might need a bail bond and how they work, take a look at our help guide.

Double Jeopardy Protection

One very important consideration for criminal defendants is if they’re pursued for a second time for a crime if they’ve already been tried and acquitted (or served a sentence for it previously).

This ‘double jeopardy’ protection is one of your fifth amendment rights, so seek professional legal advice at the earliest opportunity if you feel this is the case.

Ensure Defendants Rights Are Respected

Sometimes, the rights of defendants can fall by the wayside in the pursuit of quick justice. This must not be allowed to happen.

If you’re charged with a criminal offense, make sure you’re given the right to suitable legal representation. Understanding defendants rights like these will help you mount a defense in any criminal trial.

And remember, you’re entitled to the right to affordable bail terms that match the seriousness of any accused crime. If you’re in need of a bail bond agent, contact us for a free and speedy consultation today.

What Happens if You Don’t Show Up to Court?

Every year in the US, more than 20% of people facing charges fail to appear in court.

If you are out on bail you may experience overwhelming feelings of anxiety as your court date draws nearer. You may be feeling the same way if you have posted bail for someone with a pending court appearance.

When you are in either of these situations, it’s in your best interest to find out what happens if you don’t show up for court. Here’s the deal.

What Happens if You Don’t Show up For Court

It happens that people to miss their court appearance for understandable reasons. These are things like illness, car trouble or getting the date wrong.

In these cases, the court is usually lenient and reschedules the court date. There is no guarantee of this, so it’s important to treat a court case as an absolute priority. The easiest way to make a court case go away is to arrive and deal with the consequences of your arrest.

If you skip bail without a good excuse, there could be severe consequences.

Failure to appear (FTA) in court is a federal offense in some states and will result in a warrant for the arrest of the person who skips bail. A prison sentence of 30 days to 8 months can be added to any penalties that the defendant is already facing.

The judge will normally increase the bail bond by twice the amount of the original bail. The court will notify the bail bond agent and the defendant when this happens.

If a defendant misses his court appearances more than once for the same case, they will have a very hard time getting bonded. These types of bonds are categorized and often called a C-Bond. Most bondsmen stay away from servicing these types bonds because of their risk. Bail agents who do assist will normally ask for 100% cash collateral plus their fee.

In some cases, the court may exercise leniency and allow the defendant a chance to rectify matters. The court is not obliged to do this and unlikely to if the person is a repeat offender.

These are the consequences for the person who fails to appear, but what happens if you bail someone out of jail and they run?

Implications for the Person who Posted Bail

When you take out a bail bond for someone, you are responsible to the court as well as the bail bond agent. You also assume responsibility for ensuring that the defendant appears in court.

If you manage to track the runner down within 90 days, take them to the police and fill out the necessary paperwork. They will notify the court that the person has been located. Should the police find them first, you can apply for reinstatement of the bond.

If you can’t make this happen, you are liable for paying the increased bail bond and could lose any assets you put up as security if you aren’t able to do so.

For these reasons, you should avoid arranging bail for anyone if you have the slightest suspicion they may skip bail. It’s a mistake with far-reaching consequences.

There are other ways to raise a bail bond if needed.

Choosing a Bail Bond Provider

Should you decide to arrange bail for someone else it is important to deal with a reputable bail bond agent.

Always check for companies registered with the Better Business Bureau when making bail arrangements.

The Best Advice About Bail Bonds

If you have bail-related questions like, ‘what happens if you don’t show up for court?’, get in touch with a reputable bail bond agent before you do anything else.

We are active throughout North Carolina and available 24 hours a day.