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The Role of a Public Defender

By Mart Gil Abareta

When you’ve been wrongly accused of a certain crime and been prosecuted, you’ll certainly need the legal help and assistance of a public defender especially when you can’t afford to pay for the legal fees and bills covering the consultations, gathering of evidences, and actual proceedings regarding the case. However, getting a public defender is not that easy. You also have to go through a somewhat-rigorous process.

The role of a criminal defense attorney is really complex. He can challenge probable cause for arrest, argue in favor of being released on your own recognizance or on very low bail, negotiate plea bargains with prosecutors, discuss the pros and cons of going to trial, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of pleading guilty instead of going to trial. These things are what a public attorney can offer you when you’re in the same circumstances.

As what I’ve said, getting the service of a public attorney from a public attorney’s office is not so simple. You have to go through a careful evaluation of your financial assets, properties, incomes and debts to determine if you are eligible for representation by a public attorney. And, if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer from the private legal community, the court will automatically appoint a government-paid lawyer to represent you.

Being freed from the payment of your legal fees is not the only advantage in hiring a public defender. With regards to a public defender’s capabilities, you can consider him as the “perfect knights for justice” because he is very efficient at sizing up your case and presenting an acceptable plea bargain deal to the prosecutor and judge. Additionally, he is updated on new laws and legal theories in his area of specialty. As a result, you may be done with the criminal process and on with the rest of your life sooner than if you were represented by a private attorney.

Regarding the drawbacks, you have to know that a government-paid lawyer often has a huge overload of cases so he can’t devote a lot of time to a certain lawsuit. He also often lacks office equipment and adequate research access, and can’t afford to hire investigators to properly flesh out your case. As a result, you may have little or no access to your lawyer except during actual court hearings.

With all these, the decision is still left for you to decide on if you’ll want a public defender to back you up in your case or not.

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