Is it worth the expense of hiring a private criminal defense attorney, especially if you may have to borrow from friends or family to do it? Should you just let a public defender handle the job?
If you live in Louisiana, you may be startled to find out that your right to counsel — one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution — is barely being upheld.
Louisiana is the only state in the nation that funds its public defender’s office through fines, not taxes. As a result, the system has virtually fallen apart. Defendants routinely tell stories about not meeting their public defender prior to court — which means they were little more to their attorney than a name and police report. That’s hardly a situation that will provide someone the vigorous defense they’re entitled to under the law.
That means that there are a number of important reasons to consider a private attorney, even when it may be a stretch for you to raise the funds:
- An attorney may be able to help you secure bail at a reasonable rate so that you can continue working and providing for your family while you await trial. Otherwise, you may spend time behind bars without ever being convicted.
- An attorney can often quickly negotiate a reduced charge or a reduced sentence that will get you out of jail and back to a more productive life — especially if this is your first offense. For example, if you’re facing a simple drug possession charge, your attorney may be able to talk to the prosecutor and get you into a diversion program for first-time drug offenders before you even see the inside of the courtroom.
- A private attorney is going to take a close look at the evidence against you and aim for any weak areas. They can challenge and often suppress evidence that wasn’t properly obtained — which may cause the case against you to fall apart.
In the end a private criminal defense attorney may be less costly than you realize — and certainly less costly than losing several years of your life to prison because you didn’t have good representation.
Source: FindLaw, “Top Ten Reasons to Hire a Lawyer,” accessed July 25, 2017