Private attorneys and public defenders are both certified attorneys who have graduated from accredited law schools (received a J.D.) and have passed the bar exam for the state in which they practice (Colorado Bar). So, why hire a private attorney? Here are some of the differences between a private attorney and a public defender:
Low Income Standard
The first major difference is that public defenders will represent, with little or no charge, a qualified individual who meets the low-income requirements (fiscal standards) and is under arrest or charged with committing a felony. This means that your legal counsel is free for those who meet the stringent criteria. Even with low income, you do not necessarily qualify for a public defender.
Public defenders are assigned to represent the cases of those who meet the standards above. Public defenders can not refuse to represent a client without proper legal cause. Private attorneys on the other hand, can refuse to represent any client for almost any reason. This results in private attorneys having lighter caseloads and the ability to focus more of their resources on your case.
Public defenders handle a very large array of cases, including robbery, drug possession, rape, murder, and DUI, among others. A private attorney will typically focus on a specific type of law in order to develop a specialized knowledge of those types of cases.
More face-time with your attorney
Public defenders often do not meet with their clients until moments before court, due to the large number of clients and cases they are working on. Private attorneys often have much more contact with you, which leads to a more thorough investigation and review of your file.
You get to choose your attorney
There are a many attorneys and you get to choose which one you want to defend you. You can interview as many attorneys as you wish, in order to choose the attorney that is right for you. When you choose to have a public defender, you will be assigned an attorney, regardless of how you feel about that attorney.
Public defenders often cannot help you in civil or administrative matters. They work specifically in criminal law, so you will need to hire a private attorney to help you resolve non-criminal matters.