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Public Defender vs. Private Attorney - Which one is better?

lawyers-courtroom.jpegWhen charged with a DUI, you may be wondering if you should hire a private attorney or public defender to defend the charge(s) asserted against you. I strongly recommend you review the public defender's qualifications as well as the private attorney prior to selecting counsel. Read on to learn more. 

Public Defender Appointment Overview

Washtenaw county judges will appoint the Washtenaw County Office of Public Defender for free to qualifying defendants. In order to qualify for public defender legal assistance, you must be indigent or partially indigent. In addition to satisfying the income requirements, one of the following must occur as well:

1. The offense charged is punishable by 93 days or more in jail; or

2. The offense charged requires, on conviction, a minimum term in jail; or

3. The court determines that it might sentence the defendant to jail.

In addition to the above factors, you may also be required to reimburse court appointed counsel costs at the conclusion of the case. The judge must also approve the appointment of the public defender (appointment is not automatic).

Hiring a Private Attorney vs. Public Defender

Defendants often complain that Washtenaw County public defenders are limited in their time, over worked, and have access to limited resources (which depends on how well-funded the public defender's office is) in regard to properly managing their cases in comparison to private attorneys. Though most public defenders are dedicated lawyers who genuinely care about their clients, several studies has found that the average sentence for clients of public defenders is almost three times longer than the sentences of clients represented by private lawyers.

If you are marginally indigent or you do not qualify for a public defender, you may be wondering if you should hire a private attorney. You should review the credentials of private attorneys in your local to determine if they have the skill set to properly defend you. The private attorney's quality of work will depend on their experience and training. For example, you may benefit from hiring a private attorney who has extensive plea bargain and trial experience as well as the time and resources necessary to give you an in depth defense.

Defendants in Washtenaw county are lucky to have access to the Washtenaw County Office of Public Defender where there are many dedicated and well qualified defense attorneys. However, many defendants may benefit from the extra time and attention available from a private defense attorney. While it is true that a private attorney can be expensive, it is also true that it is an investment in yourself and your future.

Hire an Ann Arbor Drunk Driving Attorney

The consequences of pleading guilty to a misdemeanor or felony DUI are severe. Not only will your driver's license be suspended or revoked, you will never be able to expunge the conviction from your criminal record.

As a former prosecutor with the City of Ann Arbor and as a current private defense attorney, I have extensive experience in representing drunk driving clients in the Ann Arbor area. I invite you to contact my law office for a consultation. I can provide you with legal advice and guidance on how to proceed.


Rule 6.005 Right to Assistance of Lawyer; Advice; Appointment for Indigents; Waiver; Joint Representation; Grand Jury Proceedings

Free-Market Justice

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