If you are charged with a crime in Alameda County, California, you should hire your own Alameda County criminal defense lawyer. Relying on an Alameda County Public Defender instead of your own private attorney is a risky proposition.
“You have the right to an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you…” You have likely heard this part of a Miranda warning on countless TV crime dramas. It refers to the constitutional right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution and means that in Alameda County, an attorney from the Office of the Alameda County Public Defender will be assigned to represent you if you can't afford to get one on your own.
While this sounds good in theory, in practice it is a risky move for anyone accused of a crime to choose a public defender if there is any chance they could hire a committed private defense attorney instead.
It should be noted that the attorneys at the public defender's office are talented, hard-working, and committed to their jobs. However, here are four reasons not to use an Alameda County Public Defender if at all possible:
- Your public defender may have only minutes to prepare your defense. Due to budget cuts and constraints, and the fact that so many criminal defendants require the assistance of a public defender, there are simply not enough attorneys in the public defenders' office to properly handle all of the cases they are assigned. Each public defender has hundreds of cases at any given point, often way more than the recommended amount, and as such simply cannot dedicate the time necessary to mount a thorough or effective defense. They may have only minutes to prepare for and strategize about your case.
- Your public defender may not have the resources to mount a good defense. An effective criminal defense requires interviewing witnesses, hiring investigators to find evidence, and retaining experts who can testify as to critical matters in the case. The same lack of money, resources, and time that leave public defenders so overstretched also means that they don't have the tools that are essential to defending their clients, leaving them at significantly increased risk of conviction.
- Your public defender may pressure you to plead guilty. Given the sheer number of cases they handle, public defenders can be under a great deal of pressure to resolve matters as quickly as possible. That often means getting their clients to plead guilty. While there are certainly situations in which entering into a plea agreement makes strategic sense, that decision should be based on the merits of the case, not on the fact that the attorney is simply too busy.
- Your future is at stake. If you've been charged with a crime in Alameda County, your future is on the line. Whether it is a significant time behind bars or a stain on your record that will last for decades, the decisions that you and your defense attorney make now will have a huge impact on your life going forward. It is no time to be cutting corners or pinching pennies if at all possible.
Retaining an experienced Alameda County criminal defense attorney who has the skill, time, and resources available to provide you with personal attention and a powerful defense is the best decision you can make. Also see our article, Four Reasons not to Use a Las Vegas Public Defender.