Duties of a Public Defender

Anyone who has ever watched COPS, any other crime based show or who has been arrested themselves has heard the Miranda Rights being listed. One of the rights is having an attorney appointed for those who cannot afford one. This means that a Public Defender is given the case, they do all the work and they are paid by the city, county or state in which the work. Many think that a Public Defender is not as good as a defense attorney who is paid a great deal more money for the defense of the criminal.

One of the things that you must remember is that a Public Defender has gone to law school, has passed the bar exam for the state and for all intents and purposes is an attorney. The only difference between them and a privately paid defense attorney is how much money they make and the funds they have available for the defense of a case. A Public Defender tends to be more charitable and is not in the business to get rich or even famous although many do gain fame and notoriety through cases they successfully defend.


A Public Defender can also have a much more diverse case load than a private defender because they do not get to pick and choose from the cases that are put before them. One day they may be in juvenile court defending a teenager who is skipping to much school and the next they could be defending a murder case. They may also have to appear in traffic court to defend those who have been charged with drunk driving offenses. With this type of diversity, many public defenders can move on and up the ladder and become judges because they have a broad experience base with many different aspects of the law.

Just like a private defense attorney, a Public Defender has a team of people that work beside them to defend their clients. There is typically an investigator who makes all the phone calls and sets up appointments for the attorney with witnesses and others who can add to the case. There is a paralegal or legal secretary who types up all documents and pleadings and forwards them to the appropriate courts. The Public Defender is active in the tasks but his main job is in the courtroom as a representative of the defendant.

If you ever find yourself in trouble and think that you should take out a second mortgage on your home or borrow money from friends and family to hire an attorney, think about this first. Many of the top graduates and those who score high on the bar exams work within the Public Defender’s Office and they do not charge a dime to their clients. There is no need to go into debt if you cannot afford an attorney, this is their job and they are very good at what they do. Think about allowing a Public Defender to try your case and you may find that you have the best person for the job.