If you are facing criminal charges in Las Vegas, you should explore your options for legal representation before going with a Las Vegas public defender.
“You have the right to an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you…” You may be familiar with this portion of the Miranda warning. It refers to your Sixth Amendment Constitutional right to counsel. So if you are charged in Las Vegas and cannot afford an attorney of your own, a lawyer from the Office of the Clark County Public Defender will be appointed to represent you.
Although this is an important right, in reality it is usually better to have private defense counsel advocate for you rather than a public defender.
There are four reasons to avoid relying on the Las Vegas Public Defender if possible:
- Your public defender has little time to prepare for your defense. Because of a small budget and a large caseload, public defenders simply do not have the time to devote to crafting a great defense. They might have only a few minutes to work on a case.
- Your public defender may lack resources to create an effective defense. Because of a small budget and a large caseload, public defenders may not have the opportunity to interview witnesses, hire investigators to find evidence, and retain experts to testify on behalf of the defendant. This all undermines a defendant's chances of success.
- Your public defender might prematurely advise you to take a plea. Because of a small budget and a large caseload, public defenders are pressured to resolve as many cases as possible as swiftly as possible. Nevada plea agreements often are a great resolution to a case, but no one should plead guilty until every other option and defense has been exhausted. Defense attorneys should take pains to achieve the most favorable plea agreement possible, which may take extensive negotiations that public defenders simply cannot make time for.
- Your future is on the line. Any criminal charge raises the risk of going to jail, so this is not the time to save money on an attorney.
Also see our article, Why you need your own criminal defense attorney in California.