Should you hire a lawyer or go with a public defender?

If a family member or a friend was recently arrested for something more serious than a misdemeanor, you may have found this site while looking for answers to the many questions you are now faced with. Hopefully for most of you reading this site, getting into trouble with the law is not something you are very familiar with and it can be confusing and terrifying to deal with.

Some of the questions you may have, apart from if they are going to do time, is if you should post bail for the person in jail and if you need to hire an attorney. There are quite a few angles to these questions and for most of it there isn’t a clear answer as to what is best, but more a decision that you will have to make about what is best for YOU.

The person in jail is probably going to be calling you in panic, and they will want you to bail them out. Consider this carefully before you post bail. Realize that if you have the funds and post the bail yourself, you can lose your money if they do not show up for court for whatever reason. If you use a bondsman, they will require a percentage of the bond for their fee and issue a bond. That fee will not be returned to you by the court or the bondsman. Only the person in jail can pay you back. In other words, just like when it comes to loaning money, don’t do it unless you can afford to lose that amount, because you just don’t know what might happen.

Another thing to consider is that for some cases, sitting in jail while waiting for trial might be the very best thing. In my case it was. It gave me a chance to get off the junk and to get my head clear. If I had been bonded out I am very sure I would not have made good decisions about anything while I waited for trial. I was just too messed up at the time. Another angle to this is that every day spent sitting in jail is “time served”. For someone with a job, a family to support, or even school to attend, this loss can be devastating. In other cases, for a person in a bad spot in their life, maybe without a job and generally just messing up, sitting in jail is uncomfortable and not fun, but chances are it won’t hurt them any worse than their current lifestyle was.

For many people the first thing they think of when there is legal trouble is to get the best attorney available to get them out of the trouble they are in. Hiring a good attorney is a very smart choice at times. First take a look at the severity of the crime you are accused of, the possible sentence you could face, and the circumstances surrounding your arrest. All arrests are serious, but some cases will benefit from the legal expertise of a great lawyer. Of course, good attorneys cost good money, so be prepared for a substantial expense. Usually though, spending some money is far preferable than spending a couple years or more locked up. And, if being locked up is the probably outcome to things, of course you will want the shortest sentence length possible.

What if you don’t have money for a good lawyer? Don’t lose hope. You might fear that a public defender will not really defend your loved one very well. In fact, in many cases a public defender will give just the same amount of attention to your case as a paid attorney can. If you are arrested on first time charges that have not caused anyone else serious harm, chances are that your case will never come to trial. A deal will be struck between the DA’s office and your lawyer. A public defender will be able to negotiate this deal just as a paid attorney will. In these kinds of cases the amount of actual time a lawyer will spend on your case, whether it be a paid lawyer or a public defender, is not that much.

Bottom line: If you find yourself or your loved ones with serious legal troubles, do not panic when it comes to making the important decisions. If you do choose to hire an attorney, talk to several and do not to be intimidated. YOU are hiring them, so ask questions! A lot of lawyers are good at talking but don’t let them take over the initial meeting. They can be prone to do this. Make a few notes to refer to so you don’t lose track and forget to ask things. And good luck!