Before You Call The California Public Defender's Office

Updated: Sep 25

A California Public Defender May Not Be The Best Choice For Your Criminal Case


If you have been charged with a misdemeanor of a felony in California, you may be wondering what is the best criminal defense to avoid going to jail. In this article, we will discuss why hiring a California public defender isn't always a good idea when you are facing serious jail time along with financial and emotional suffering for you and your family.



What Is A California Public Defender?


A California public defender is a court appointed government employee who works as a criminal defense lawyer with people who cannot afford to pay for private criminal legal defense.


Because the court appoints the public defender to each criminal case, you the defendant, have no say on who is best suited for your particular set of circumstances and criminal charges.


As government employees, California public defenders usually earn much less than a private criminal defense attorney. Since they earn a fixed salary, their case load can be huge thus they must allocate their attention to dozens, sometimes hundreds of criminal cases at the same time which makes public defenders impossible to provide adequate legal representation in a criminal case.


The scene in many California courtrooms is the same, public defenders meet a few minutes before going in front of the judge. The lucky ones get only 5 minutes of legal advice before they enter a plea that can have a tremendous impact in their lives.



Most local public defenders office don't have paralegals, investigators or the support of law clerks. Public defenders are expected to wear different hats and take on all the responsibilities associated with misdemeanor and felony cases from start to finish.


Actual time spent in a criminal defense case VS recommended time spent.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 80% of criminal defendants cannot afford to pay for a private California criminal defense attorney. Their heavy case loads inevitably have repercussions such as:

  • Poor and inadequate legal defense.

  • A public defender will only do whats required to close a criminal case file and move on to the next case.

  • Because the public defender is appointed by the court, very often there's a conflict of personalities or simply lack of communication with their clients.

  • Public defenders are very often over-worked and so they are more likely to overlook mistakes by the prosecutor.

  • According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, public defenders average close to 600 criminal cases per year, that's approximately 50 cases a month (The American Bar Association recommends 10-12 cases per month for an effective defense)

  • A California public defender is more likely to seek a plea deal without pursuing the best legal strategy to minimize jail time and fines.

  • Limited resources and support.

  • Not enough time to prepare an effective defense due to heavy case loads.

  • The inability to pay attention to detail.

  • Since they must work with a lot of defendants, they lack the motivation for personalized attention and dedication to your case.

In most serious criminal defense cases, public defenders spend little time in most important tasks that can make a difference in a criminal defense outcome.

Hiring a California Criminal Defense Lawyer


There's no doubt that hiring your own California criminal defense lawyer is the best alternative to defend yourself in court. However, hiring a criminal defense lawyer also has its own set of challenges.


California has one of the highest occurrences of attorney misconduct that lead to suspensions and disbarments.


How do you know who is the best California criminal defense lawyer for your criminal defense case when all of them claim to be the best choice? Understandably, criminal defense lawyers want to earn your business and therefore they will sell themselves as the best alternative.

It is up to you to make an informed decision, by conducting and extensive research on a criminal defense lawyer's background, experience, ethical standards, credentials, education, and past performance.


You can use the California State Bar's attorney search tool to get some information about the attorney you are considering hiring. However, it doesn't have any information about client reviews and past performance so you still need to dig a little deeper.


You can also request a recommendation to a pre-screened California criminal defense lawyer for a free consultation. If your freedom and financial stability are at stake, you cannot afford to make the wrong decision. Take your time, choosing the right criminal defense lawyer will have an impact on the outcome of your case.


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