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Public Defender vs. Private Attorney | What to Know

There are several key differences between a case with a public defender versus a private attorney. Read on and reach out to our firm today to learn more and speak with a skilled Bergen County criminal defense attorney. Our legal team is on your side.

What are the differences between a public defender and a private attorney?

Choosing the right attorney to protect your case should be managed seriously. If you are facing criminal charges, your initial finding may be whether to hire a private attorney or go with a court-appointed public defender. New Jersey criminal courts will appoint a public defender to deliver legal counsel for free or at a lower rate. Representation is restricted to individuals who are indigent, indicating that they are incapable of retaining a private lawyer because their income is lower than the state guideline.

Public defenders are appointed, and private attorneys are selected. When you apply for a public defender you simply fill out a financial eligibility form. You do not get to expressly choose the lawyer who is appointed. This means you must stay with the court-appointed attorney even if you personally dislike or doubt his legal skills. Proceeding with a private attorney offers you more space to choose a lawyer you like. You can consult and exhaust hundreds of private attorneys until you are sure you have the best attorney for your case. Furthermore, you may for any reason overlook your private attorney at any time and substitute a new lawyer to describe your case. Choosing a private attorney, therefore, offers you the most freedom to direct the path of your case.

It will likely be challenging to set a meeting and discuss your case with an overworked and underpaid public defender. You can expect to have as little as a few minutes before a court appearance to sit down with the public defender. Private attorneys have much fewer cases and thus more time to explore the particulars of your case. Every case is different and any subtle detail can change its route. Private attorneys have a lot of aid available to help. They can supply you with in-person meetings and communicate with you about every element of your defense. They have the support to employ expert witnesses, access lab and testing facilities, and draft a legal memorandum to bolster your defense.


Kevin T. Conway is an experienced Bergen County criminal attorney handling DUI, DWI, traffic violations, violent crimes, sex crimes, illegal gun possession, shoplifting, and juvenile crimes. Attorney Conway is also experienced in commercial law matters, zoning law, and estate planning. If you need an aggressive criminal lawyer, contact The Law Office of Kevin T. Conway for a free consultation.

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