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Private Attorneys, Public Defenders and Self-Representation: Which Option Is Best for You?

Interviewer: Why shouldn’t someone just try to be appointed a public defender or even defend him or herself? If you were to compare trying to defend yourself versus a public defender versus a private attorney, what are the pros and cons of those scenarios?

Stuart Austin: In most cases, most judges wouldn’t let you defend yourself, unless you prove to them you had some knowledge and ability to do so. Putting together a good defense is a complicated process. I tell people that it’s sort of like trying to do surgery on your self; even a doctor who knows what he’s doing wouldn’t do that. Even lawyers don’t defend themselves; they hire another lawyer when they get into trouble. You just can’t do it yourself, especially if you don’t have the legal knowledge.

Depending on what county you’re in, public defenders are great. You have to meet their requirements to have one of them appointed to you. The only problem is sometimes they’re a little busy and you have to take it upon yourself to actually make time to spend with them and make appointments but most of them are really, as I said, fine attorneys.

Usually, public defenders are newer attorneys that are up-and-coming. I think that’s just by the nature of the beast. After you’ve spent a couple of years as a public defender, you move on to private practice for yourself.