Should I hire a criminal defense lawyer or use a public defender?

Those who have been charged with a criminal offense often wonder if it makes more sense to hire a criminal defense attorney or use a public defender. The most obvious difference between them is that a public defender is free and a criminal defense lawyer is not. However, are there other things that set them apart? In fact, there are several differences between them and each should be considered when making the crucial decision about which path to choose. After all, your entire future could be at stake.

A Quick Comparison of Public Defenders Vs. Criminal Defense Lawyers


Public defenders are free

Criminal defense lawyers charge (fees vary by attorney)

Quality of Service:

Public defenders are often overworked and underpaid, which means they will not likely be able to devote their full attention to your case.

Criminal defense lawyers can afford to accept a smaller caseload because they charge by the case. This means they can give your case the focus it deserves. They also can afford to pay for experts who can testify in your defense to strengthen your case.


Public defenders are tasked with defending a wide range of criminal defendants. Even the best public defenders rarely have an opportunity to specialize in one area of the law. As a result, they may lack the necessary skills and experience to successfully handle your particular case.

Criminal defense lawyers often specialize in certain types of criminal cases. Very likely, you can locate a criminal defense lawyer in your area who has experiencing cases similar to yours. There is no substitute for experience, especially when it comes to protecting your rights.

When a Public Defender Makes the Most Sense

Under certain circumstances, it may be your best or only choice to hire a public defender. If any of the following is true for you, a public defender may work for you:

  • You have no money to pay for a criminal defense lawyer as you have no savings, assets, or the ability to get a loan.
  • The criminal charge against you is relatively minor and it is your first offense.

When It’s In Your Best Interest to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

  • You can afford to pay for a criminal defense lawyer.
  • This is not your first offense for a criminal charge.
  • A guilty verdict could affect your personal and professional reputation.
  • The repercussions of a guilty verdict could result in jail time and/or steep fines as well as other punishments such as losing your driver’s license.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact a criminal lawyer Baltimore MD citizens frequently rely on to request a free consultation.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Greenberg Law Offices for their insight into criminal defense.