Dutko Law, LLC


Private Attorney or Public Defender?

Private Attorney or Public Defender?

America has one of the greatest legal systems in the world. But it is by no means perfect. One area where this is glaringly obvious is with public defenders, who are unfortunately under-equipped systemically (not professionally) to defend the excessive amount of clients they are assigned. When you need a criminal defense lawyer, if you are financially able, it is always preferable to hire a private attorney over a public defender to ensure you get the best representation possible.

Most people charged with serious crimes are indigent, and don’t have the money for an attorney. Shockingly, according to one of the largest studies of its kind, death sentences that made it to the appeal process ended up being overturned two out of three times. That is about a 66 percent failure rate of our justice system from that sample. So what is it that makes it so hard for public defenders to represent their charges?

Huge Caseload

Whereas a private attorney will almost assuredly ensure there is plenty of time to work a case when they take one on, public defenders are overworked at a level that, according to Laurence A. Benner of the American Bar Association, “offices have attorney caseloads that exceed nationally recognized maximum caseload standards.”, and state level organizations have fared no better. This means that while our Sixth Amendment states “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”, it does not guarantee equal representation. How could it, when indigent defendants are represented by lawyers that may have 20 to 30 cases in a day, while private attorneys may only have to focus on one, two, or maybe three?


Every lawyer must maintain standards set by the American Bar Association, but there is a different incentive for public vs. private defenders. A public defender is funded by the state, and receives no disincentive for not “giving their all” in a case. In contrast, a private defender must constantly justify their practice to their clients. And when they do well, they tend to get more clients. This creates a bigger incentive for better representation.


It is an unfortunate fact in our country that prosecutors work closely with police and forensic teams in our legal system. This creates a “team spirit” that motivates people to “catch the bad guy” at all costs (this is not their job, they are only supposed to scientifically verify) even going so far as to use debunked science like bite mark testimony to get convictions (there are many people currently serving sentences based on this debunked science). Add to that the fact that as many as 90 percent of all criminal cases in the US end in a plea bargain, and you can see how an overworked attorney could advise their client to take a plea bargain, rather than risk a conviction even if they are innocent.

Hiring a private over public attorney can greatly increase your chances of exoneration. Don’t put your freedom in jeopardy; if you need a criminal defense lawyer in Kutztown or the surrounding areas, hire a private attorney from Dutko Law. Feel free to give us a call if you need any more information about our practice our services.