When it comes to finding a defense attorney to work on a DUI case or any other type of criminal case, one of the first major decisions an individual must contemplate is to hire a private defense attorney or to utilize a public defense attorney. For some individuals the choice is clear, for others the decision may be more difficult. Here are some commonly asked questions and answers concerning private and public defense attorneys that may aid in the decision to hire an attorney or not.
Q. Does a public defense attorney cost money, and if so how much?
A. A public defense attorney does not cost money if that individual qualifies as indigent under Washington State law. According to RCW 10.101, a person who is indigent:
- Receives public assistance (temporary assistance for needy families; aged, blind or disabled assistance benefits; medical care services under RCW 74.09.035; pregnant women assistance benefits, poverty-related veterans’ benefits, food stamps or food stamp benefits transferred electronically, refugee resettlement benefits, Medicaid, or supplemental security income); OR
- Is involuntarily committed to a public mental health facility; OR
- Receives an annual income, after taxes, of 125 percent or less of the current federally established poverty level (external); OR
- Is unable to pay the anticipated cost of counsel for the matter before the court because the available funds are insufficient to pay any amount for the retention of counsel.
If an individual does not qualify as indigent but does not have enough money for a private attorney than that individual is considered “able to contribute” and the Department of Public Defense screener will have the individual sign a promissory note to offset the cost of the public defense attorney.
Q. Does a private attorney cost money, and if so how much?
A. Yes, a private defense attorney will charge a flat fee or an hourly fee for services rendered. Fees vary between private attorneys and more experienced attorneys or large law firms often command higher fees. Here at David O Defense, attorneys offer a free consultation to talk about the criminal allegation. During the consultation the attorney will be able to determine the legal fee, which is based on the circumstances of the case and criminal history. A unique feature of David O Defense is the ability to offer tailored payment plans, to fit the financial situations of our clients.
3. Q. Does an individual get to choose a public defense attorney of their choice for case representation?
A. No, the Department of Public Defense will assign an attorney, an individual does not get to choose.
4. Q. Does an individual get to choose a private defense attorney of their choice for case representation?
A. Yes, an individual chooses a private defense attorney that best fits their legal needs. Here at David O Defense we prefer to meet individuals in person so they can get a better impression of our attorneys and office environment. We also encourage individuals to meet with other attorneys so they can determine which private attorney will provide the best representation. When visiting other attorneys, David O Defense suggests individuals should observe; 1) attorney mannerisms, 2) how well the attorney articulates legal matters and answers questions, and 3) the organization of the attorney and their office. Additionally, we recommend reading attorney reviews by peers and past clients on reputable websites like Nolo.com,Yelp or Avvo.com.
5. Q. Will a public defense attorney or a private defense attorney provide better case resolution and results?
A. Generally a private defense attorney will work harder for better case resolutions and results. Generally a private attorney has a smaller case load than a public defense attorney and therefore can dedicate more time and effort into an individuals case. Also a private attorney has monetary and future referral incentives to work hard on an individual’s case, whereas a public defense attorney will receive a paycheck win or lose a case and they do not depend on referrals for future clients. Here at David O Defense, our attorneys work very hard to achieve optimal case results for each and every client.
6. Q. Do public and private defense attorneys have the same legal education and qualifications for criminal defense work?
A. Yes, both public and private defense attorneys have completed law school and passed the Washington State Bar exam to become a practicing criminal defense attorney in the State of Washington. Years of experience, extra curriculum legal involvement, and a passion for criminal law will vary between attorneys.
Written by Criminal Defense Attorney, David O
Co-Written by SAO