The need for legal representation when navigating the criminal court system is so significant that rules require the state to provide representation for indigent defendants. Public defender programs help ensure that anyone accused of a crime has proper representation when they go to trial.
However, it is often far better for someone facing criminal charges to work with a private defense attorney instead of a public defender. Why do public defenders often fail to offer the best standard of representation to their clients?
There is a shortage of attorneys
North Carolina simply does not have enough lawyers serving as public defenders. In fact, some North Carolina counties have so few attorneys available that indigent defendants are at a major disadvantage. The state bar calls these counties “legal deserts” because there aren’t enough resources to help the people who live there. In fact, only 38 of the 100 counties in the state have public defender offices currently operating to assist criminal defendants. Defendants may struggle to obtain representation and may have very limited access to or time with a public defender even if they qualify for one.
Public defenders are often overworked
Even in counties with higher numbers of lawyers and therefore better access to public defenders, those providing representation for low-income defendants often carry unsustainable caseloads. They have so many clients that they may struggle to recall the details of each individual case. Beyond that, they may lack personal experience with the specific type of offense that someone faces.
Those who hire their own defense attorneys receive one-on-one attention from their defense lawyer. They will also have the option of selecting someone with experience in certain areas of criminal law and a positive track record of winning for their clients. Even though who struggle financially can often find ways to afford private representation. Making the effort to obtain appropriate legal assistance when facing charges can make all the difference for a defendant.