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Nov 05, 2021

Should I Use the Court-Appointed Lawyer?

You were recently arrested and charged with a crime in Oakland. Now, you have to decide if you want to use the court-appointed lawyer or hire your own representation.

By figuring out the difference between the two, you will feel more empowered in your decision and know that you’re making the right choice for your future. Here’s some more information.

What Is a Court-Appointed Lawyer?

A court-appointed lawyer, also known as a public defender, is a lawyer who works for and is paid by the government to defend people accused of crimes. They are available to people who don’t have any other representation and typically can’t afford a private criminal defense attorney. It is a person’s right to be given access to a public defender if they have no other choice and are faced with jail or prison time.

Advantages of a Court-Appointed Lawyer

The biggest advantage to hiring a court-appointed lawyer vs. an Oakland criminal defense attorney is the cost. A public defender is free. If you don’t have any means of paying for representation, a court-appointed lawyer is better than having no representation at all.

Additionally, since public defenders work on so many cases at once, they have ample experience in a number of different areas of criminal law. Or, some public defenders even have specific niches they focus on so they become more experienced in one area.

Another advantage is that because they’re defending so many people at once, they have built up relationships with judges, prosecutors, and other personnel, which could work in a defendant’s favor.

To become a court-appointed attorney, you have to obtain the same education as a private lawyer. They also need to maintain their membership with the state bar just like a private lawyer does.

Public defenders represent the people whom society may have brushed off or turned against. When you want a helping hand in your time of need, a public defender will be there for you.

Disadvantages of a Court-Appointed Lawyer

The most obvious disadvantage of hiring a court-appointed lawyer is that they are often overworked, handling many different cases at one time. Some may even have more than 100 cases to work on at once. One public defender profiled in The New York Times was assigned to work on 194 felony cases, and studies show that court-appointed lawyers have two to almost five times as many cases as they should normally be given.

If your public defender has so many defendants they are working for at the same time, they’re not going to be able to give your case the attention it deserves. This could have many devastating effects on your life.

If your court-appointed lawyer is overworked, they might not think outside of the box when it comes to defending you. To them, you may just be another number, which means instead of fighting, they could just recommend that you take a plea deal by default. You could have to go to jail or prison for years on end, have to pay hefty fines, go on parole or probation, or face other consequences.

This won’t just affect you for the next few years you’re behind bars. Your criminal charges will follow you for the rest of your life and could make it more difficult for you to pay for your college education, since convicted offenders can’t get access to federal loans, as well as get a job, since employers may be hesitant to hire you. A landlord might not want to rent a place to you, either. Plus, your family and friends could look down on you and separate themselves from you, leaving you feeling alienated and alone.

Another thing you need to think about is feeling empowered when it comes to your case. Your public defender will not have ample time to meet with you and discuss the process. You will likely be left in the dark and not know the intricacies of what’s going on – or how you could help find a better solution.

You also won’t get to choose who represents you as your public defender. The court is going to appoint one for you. You may find that it’s impossible to switch to another court-appointed lawyer if you don’t like the one you are given.

Now that you know about public defenders, it’s crucial to learn about private criminal defense attorneys as well.

What Is a Private Criminal Defense Attorney?

A private criminal defense attorney is a lawyer you hire who will represent you in your criminal case. They have their own private practice and build their business as they get more clients. You will pay your lawyer a fixed or set fee or an hourly fee based on how they choose to bill you. Fees vary depending on a lawyer’s experience and expertise working on cases. Oftentimes, you’ll be able to get a free consultation to see if the lawyer is right for you. These lawyers are different from those who charge you a contingency fee, which is a fee based on the outcome of the case. Criminal lawyers will not and cannot do that.

Advantages of a Private Criminal Defense Attorney

A private criminal defense attorney will have much more time to work on your case. They don’t have as big of a caseload since they choose how many clients they take on at once. This means they may be more willing to fight for you inside and outside of the courtroom and won’t just automatically recommend you take a plea deal. If they do recommend a plea deal, it’ll only be after they thoroughly weigh all your other options and discussed them with you. You are not just another number: you are a valued client.

An Oakland criminal defense attorney will also have the staff to work on your case and provide you with support and customer service when you need it. Some lawyers are even available 24/7, which is very important if you’ve been arrested late at night or something else has happened during non-working hours and you need help right away. If you have a public defender, they’re not going to be as accessible – which can leave you feeling stressed out and worried.

With a private criminal defense attorney, you will be kept in the know about your case. You can ask questions and learn about the process so you can partake in it as well. Essentially, you’ll be much more hands on than you would be with a public defender, if you choose.

You can pick an Oakland criminal defense attorney you believe will do the best job and switch to another lawyer at any time if you feel it’s necessary. To choose a lawyer, you can ask your family and friends for recommendations as well as look on review sites like Google and Yelp and check out lawyers’ websites for client results.

Disadvantages of a Private Criminal Defense Attorney

The most apparent disadvantage of hiring a private Oakland criminal defense attorney is that it’s going to cost you money. Lawyers can charge hundreds of dollars per hour, so you may receive a sizeable bill after working with one.

However, you do have options. Some lawyers offer payment plans, for instance. You could also ask your friends and family for help or figure out another way to raise the money.

It’s best to look at hiring a private Oakland criminal defense attorney as an investment. Most importantly, it’s an investment in your future. If you knew you could possibly avoid time behind bars, big fines, and other penalties, wouldn’t you want to pay for that? You have to think about the time you’d lose and the experiences you wouldn’t be able to partake in because you were in jail or prison or you had a criminal record. You need to think about the money you’ll lose if you can’t find a job after getting out of jail or you can’t attend college or live where you want to. You could be stuck in a bad position for years to come. When you look at it from that perspective, trying to forge a better future ahead is worth every single penny.

What a Court-Appointed Lawyer and Criminal Defense Attorney Do

You may be wondering what a court-appointed lawyer and a private criminal defense attorney actually do. These representatives will look at all the facts of your case, collect evidence in your favor, and negotiate with the prosecutor who is bringing the charges against you. They will also hold meetings with you to hear your side of the story and consult you on the best way to move forward in your situation. These lawyers are going to examine and question witnesses as well as review search and seizure procedures.

Many times, both court-appointed lawyers and criminal defense attorneys will negotiate with the prosecutors to get you a plea deal rather than take your case to court. This is because the criminal justice system is clogged and going to court is time-consuming and expensive. With a plea deal, you will plead guilty or no contest to your charges to get a reduced or dropped sentence. However, if you want to fight your charges altogether, then you can let your Oakland criminal defense attorney know and they will work hard to get you cleared.

Making Your Choice

Before deciding to go one way or another, ask anyone you know who has also faced criminal charges whether they went with a public defender or a private criminal defense attorney. They will let you know the scoop on how working with either type of representative works.

Additionally, talk to different Oakland criminal defense attorneys to find one who is right for you. If the first one is too expensive or doesn’t seem experienced enough, you don’t have to settle. You always have options. There are a number of competent lawyers out there who would want to represent you.

Ask your potential lawyer about the fees they charge and how they will collect payment from you (on a monthly basis, for example). Then, you will know how to financially prepare for hiring them.

You should also locate an Oakland criminal defense attorney who has experience in the type of crimes you’ve been charged with, such as domestic violence, drunk driving, assault, or drug crimes. With this experience, they will know how to properly defend you in your case.

Of course, you have to choose an Oakland criminal defense attorney based on how they make you feel as well. Do you feel seen and heard with them? Do they give you the attention you need? Do they get back to you promptly and answer all your questions? Are they there for you when you need them? Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel something is wrong with the relationship. You hired them, so they’re working for you. You should always have final say.

Finding an Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney

To find an Oakland criminal defense attorney, look for one who has several years of experience and excellent case results. Elliot Silver of Silver Law Firm fits the bill exactly.

Elliot Silver has garnered a number of positive outcomes for his clients. For instance, in one case, when a client was charged with possession of a bag filled with marijuana and a handgun, Elliot Silver arranged for time served and to have the entire offense reduced to a minor misdemeanor.

In another case, when a client was charged with robbery after an alleged purse snatching where an older victim got pushed to the ground, Elliot Silver fought hard to ensure the client would only have to participate in electronic monitoring for a year. Once served, he could then reduce the felony conviction to a misdemeanor.

If you’ve been charged with a crime and want to hire private representation, reach out to Oakland criminal defense attorney Elliot Silver today at (510) 995-0000 or by emailing him at We look forward to hearing from you.

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