Why should I hire a private criminal defense attorney?
Thomas Soldan: This question is for someone who is thinking about either hiring an attorney or asking the court to consider them for court-appointed counsel. In Virginia, court-appointed counsel is appropriate when the Commonwealth Attorney, the prosecutor, is not waiving their ability to seek jail time. In some cases, the Commonwealth does waive their ability to seek a jail sentence. That often occurs for first offense misdemeanors that are minor in nature, such as trespassing or a fender bender type of reckless driving case. Cases in which the Commonwealth is never going to waive their right to seek a jail sentence that are also misdemeanors typically include marijuana possession, larceny offenses or other property crimes, as well as DUI cases.
When the person is deciding that, they’ve already reached the stage of being arrested, coming before a court, and deciding between a court-appointed public attorney versus a private attorney and what the best use of their resources is. It is important to consider that a private attorney is generally going to have fewer clients and be able to provide more individual attention, both prior to court and on the day of court. They are able to have more interaction and the client is going to be able to have more access to that attorney. For example, the public defender’s offices in Loudoun County and Fauquier County handle a large volume of cases on any given docket. Whereas a private attorney may only have one or two clients, a public attorney on that same docket may have eight or 10, so their attention is going to be stretched. That’s not to say they don’t do a great job, but many times a client seeking a private attorney is looking for individual attention, including an individual response to telephone calls or emails as well as some potentially creative solutions to their legal issues that may not be available for a public attorney.