8 Risks of Accepting a Court-Assigned DUI Lawyer

Posted: April 15, 2022 at 12:00 am

As you search for DUI lawyers near me, you may be tempted to accept a court-appointed attorney. This is, in theory, a way to save money on your criminal defense and retain your right to a fair trial. But you should understand what you might be getting into if you choose a Lenexa, KS, public defender. After all, you’ll be giving that person control of your life, both now and in the future.

Ask DUI Lawyers Near Me: 8 Risks of Accepting a Court-Assigned Attorney in Lenexa, KS

1. Huge Caseloads

Public defenders throughout the nation struggle to keep pace with their caseloads. This problem is especially pronounced in Kansas, where about 120 public defenders each handle hundreds of adult felony cases per year. In contrast, the state has an arsenal of more than 350 criminal prosecutors. Such a discrepancy gives prosecutors an unfair advantage when preparing for court.  

A public defender in Lenexa, KS can devote little more than a handful of hours to each case: an insignificant amount of time given the number of trials and hearings that must be attended. Many court-appointed lawyers never get to know their clients and individual situations, and just as many receive a case file only one day before the first court hearing.

A Stark Contrast

Public defenders usually meet their clients for the first time in court. The resulting stress can take a toll on both you and your attorney. You have no idea what to expect, while your attorney is burdened by yet another case they don’t thoroughly understand. This likely explains why a number of defendants with court-appointed attorneys face more severe penalties than those with private attorneys.

By contrast, a private attorney will meet with a defendant before accepting the case. They ask questions, take notes, and strive to understand the minute details of your situation well in advance of any court hearings. They will then continue to meet with you as the defense strategy builds. Most private attorneys only work a handful of active cases at any given time, allowing them to invest considerable energy and resources into you and your case.  

2. Lack of Resources

Not only are public defender offices understaffed, but they’re also underfunded. This means they lack the tools and resources necessary for criminal defense cases. To illustrate, public defenders rarely hire investigators who can unearth more evidence. Instead, they rely on details from the initial investigation and law enforcement officials.

The trouble is that police officers rarely see a situation from more than one point of view, meaning they take a few case details at face value. Evidence available for your defense may, in turn, never be collected.

Greater Access to People and Tools

In researching DUI lawyers near me, it’s important to understand those in private practice are not bound by state-imposed budget restrictions. They often have access to innovative tools and field experts, as well as numerous staff members, who can support their investigative efforts. Such experts include associate lawyers, medical professionals, and private investigators – all of whom can help with your case.

3. No Choice in the Matter

When you opt for a public defender, you have little say in who ultimately gets your case. The court will choose an attorney for you without asking for input. You cannot consult with several different defenders and pick the one with whom you feel most comfortable. You can’t even meet with one defender and approach the court if you feel a different person would be better suited to your needs.

For your voice to be heard, you need to choose a private attorney. This allows you to research and interview a number of different attorneys until you find the right one. You might base your criteria on experience with the charge you’re facing and a track record of proven success in that area. You might even choose an attorney whose office is near your home or who offers evening or weekend appointments. Again, the choice is yours to make.

4. Inconsistent Representation

Once a court-appointed attorney is assigned, they may not stay with you for the duration of your case. The public defender’s office reserves the right to provide different attorneys to manage different phases of your defense. This can be hard to adapt to, especially if you are fortunate enough to be paired with an initial defender who makes you feel comfortable. 

On the other hand, hiring a private attorney generally means the person you first meet with will stay with you throughout the case. This provides for a smooth transition at each phase of the litigation process.

5. No Chance to Switch

We just described a scenario, common enough, in which defendants are paired with multiple court-appointed attorneys for their cases. This is not to say, however, that you can ask the court to switch attorneys if yours doesn’t seem to be doing the job. 
While many public defenders work hard and care about their clients, not all are equally passionate. Some go for plea deals rather than fight in court because they lack time and energy. In turn, some defendants feel neglected by their public defenders. But unless that attorney actually misses deadlines, ignores evidence, or loses paperwork, the court will not assign another one to your case.

6. Unclear Strategy

The most significant difference between public defenders and private attorneys is the way in which they manage a defense. The former is ethically obligated to defend you to the best of their ability, but in reality, they often accept deals that may compromise your best interests. 
It’s not that court-appointed attorneys want a poor outcome for you, but providing a proper defense is at odds with their need to quickly and efficiently resolve cases. To make this happen, they may urge you to accept terms that include jail time and/or probation simply to avoid going to trial. In comparison, experienced private attorneys in Lenexa, KS, will never suggest you take a plea deal that may jeopardize your long-term well-being.

7. Application Process

You must meet certain criteria to qualify for a court-appointed attorney. First, you must be charged with a serious criminal defense. Then you must submit an application that details your finances, including all of your assets. The court clerk will review your application and decide if you qualify. If you do not meet the financial criteria, your application may be denied – meaning you’ll have wasted precious time that could have been spent developing your defense.

8. Lack of Specialized Knowledge

Public defenders handle a wide range of cases, from murder and drug possession to armed robbery and assault. Their knowledge of the law is therefore generalized without specific training or education in a particular field. This can be a detriment for people charged with a DUI. 
Such cases require specialized knowledge of DUI evidence, field sobriety tests, and lab testing procedures. A private attorney will have this knowledge and use their previous experience to fight for your rights.

Working with a private criminal defense lawyer is a better alternative to accepting a court-appointed attorney. Although public defenders work hard and rarely get the accolades they deserve, they often lack the time, resources, and specialized knowledge that criminal defense cases demand. If you need legal representation, we’re here for you. Learn more about our services by contacting Henderson Legal Defense, LLC, today.