When you are charged with a crime in Michigan, you must first decide whether to retain a private criminal defense attorney or a public defender. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees everyone the right to attorney representation in their criminal defense. However, that does not mean everyone can qualify for free representation by a public defender.
If you have been charged with a crime in Michigan, you will want an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight vigorously for your best interests. Contact a skilled and knowledgeable attorney of George Law by calling us at (248) 247-7459 or reach out online for a case evaluation and to learn more about your legal discussions.
Who Qualifies For A Public Defender
Only indigent individuals will qualify for a free public defender. Under Michigan law, someone is considered indigent if they cannot obtain qualified legal representation without substantial financial hardship. There is a presumption of substantial financial hardship if the defendant is receiving one of the following:
- Personal public assistance, including under the food assistance program;
- Temporary assistance for needy families;
- Disability insurance; or
- Mental health or substance abuse facility.
Individuals living in public housing, serving a sentence in a correctional facility, or earning less than 140% of the federal poverty level will be presumed to be indigent individuals. Those not presumed to be indigent may qualify through a rigorous screening to determine if obtaining a private attorney will cause substantial financial hardship. The screening will investigate the seriousness of the charges, the defendant’s monthly expenses, and the local private attorney rates. If the screening determines that you will face substantial financial hardship if you are required to hire a private attorney, you will be appointed a public defender.
Main Difference Between Public Defenders And Private Attorneys
Michigan public defenders are attorneys employed by the State of Michigan to defend indigent individuals. Unfortunately, the government only has room in its budget to hire so many public defenders; however, there is no limit on how many indigent individuals will be charged with crimes yearly.
A private attorney is not employed by the government but is still an attorney who is licensed to practice law in the state of Michigan. Generally, there is a difference between availability, communication level, workload, and service level provided by public defenders and private attorneys.
There is usually a substantial workload difference between public and private defenders. This is because public defenders must take all cases assigned to them, regardless of whether they are at capacity. As a result, public defenders are regularly overworked, meaning they cannot put as much time into your defense as a private attorney.
On the other hand, private attorneys can decide whether to take a case. When private attorneys believe their representation level would be compromised, they can decline to take on more cases. As a result, private attorneys have more time to dedicate to your case, meaning you will get a stronger defense than if you are given an overworked public defender.
Because of public defenders’ workloads, they are usually unavailable to discuss your case regularly. So instead, you will likely see and speak to your public defender very little during your case. However, private attorneys can decline cases when their workload becomes too much, meaning that you can meet or speak to your private attorney when you need clarification or direction concerning the process and status of your case and defense.
You will likely only see your public defender on the days you appear in court. In contrast, an experienced private criminal defense attorney will ensure they meet their clients throughout the process and provide regular updates. In addition, private defense attorneys will answer your questions promptly over the phone or through email.
While public defenders and private defenders both consist of educated attorneys, each attorney’s workload and personal stake differ. For example, public defenders do not have a say in their case assignments and have little or no stake in the outcome. If someone gets the maximum sentence, it doesn’t affect whether they get another case. In contrast, the private defender has more time to research to give their client the best defense possible. Additionally, private defenders have a personal stake in the outcome of each case because their reputation and workflow depend on their ability to provide the best defense possible for each client.
A study by the U.S. Department of Justice showed that defendants represented by private attorneys are less likely to be convicted than if public defenders represented them. The study also showed that public defenders are more likely to advise their clients to plead guilty to avoid a longer sentence, even when the defendant did not commit the crime.
Read more in our blog: Preparing For A Criminal Defense Case Evaluation
Sometimes civil litigation can arise in connection to the criminal offense. If that occurs, a public defender will not be able to help. However, the civil litigation attorneys at George Law can, meaning there will be a smooth transition of information and an improved ability to protect your interests because the attorneys understand your entire legal picture.
Get A Case Evaluation From An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offense, having an experienced attorney on your side will make a difference in the defense you receive. The attorneys of George Law will use their experience and skill to vigorously defend you throughout the process and trial if the matter cannot be dismissed before trial. In addition, having a team that will provide timely communication will make a useful difference in the stress that criminal cases can cause.
To discuss your legal options with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today by calling (248) 247-7459 or by filling out our online form.