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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 23570
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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1. How much difference does it make for a criminal case to

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1. How much difference does it make for a criminal case to hire a private lawyer vs. a public defender? My son ******************8 is in jail for Promotion of Prostitution. He has a prior similar case Soliciting Prostitution and I think Child Pornography?? from a year ago that he missed his status hearing on because he was arrested and put in jail. I beleive he has a total of 3 felonies (maybe 4?) pending. I really do not understand that as he could not go and never missed a hearing date. I think he had a pretty good public defender for that, as she kept getting it postponed so she could get an evaluation from a psychotherapist for him or a special needs person for him and he was on track to get his BA in business and she was trying to help him finish that before he went to trial. I think he has screwed up that possibility. As you can imagine I have been totally overwhelmed with all of this.....as I thought he was on the right track and it is very difficult to understand why he would do this. I mean how stupid can you get? He had brain surgery when he was 5 and he never seemed quite the same. I do not know if this is a point in his favor or against it. He has a Cognitive disability diagnosed by the Department of Vocational Rehab. I do not know if that is good or not. He is in Kitsap County Jail, Washington State. He was arrested in a sting on 1/24/13. He has 2 jail bonds totalling $150,000. He has $2,000 that we could pay a private attorney to take his case. His arraignment is this Thursday. I do not know anything about due process, as I have never been involved with the law previously. I have 3 other children and we are an upstanding middle class family. I found an article in the Kitsap Sun about his arrest and it is way more than he has told me. 2. Are conversations via phone to my son in the jail, that are recorded permissible as evidence in court? Thank you for your quick answers to my questions. I am talking with him via video conference tonight at 7:30 PST. ***********l XXX-XXX-XXXX

Hello Jacustomer,

I know some exceptional public defenders and some terrible private lawyers. But for that matter, I know some terrible public defenders and some exceptional private lawyers. Generalizations can't really be made about something like this.

Public defenders go to the same schools, pass the same exams, sit for the same bars as private lawyers do. The big difference is that you don't get to pick your public defender. You get the luck of the draw. On the other hand, if you pay for a lawyer, you can select the best one you can afford.

Public defenders handle some 80+ percent of all criminal matters, which is why they frequently get a bum rap. But they have to take every case that comes their way while a private lawyer can cherry pick just what he knows he can do well. So it's certainly not always true that a private lawyer can do better for a client than a public defender. It depends on the lawyers, the clients, and the facts and circumstances of the case.

In general, you're not going to find a very good private lawyer for 4 felonies with only $2,000 to spend on the lawyer. If this goes to trial, spending 5 times that or more is likely.

In some situations, the quality of the lawyer makes a big difference. With a difficult case that has to be tried, you want the very best you can manage, and that would usually mean a private lawyer, as they are less busy and can devote more time to the case. If trial is unlikely and the lawyer is just going to be negotiating the most favorable plea bargain possible, spending a great deal of money on the lawyer is less important -- assuming, that is, that the client and his public defender are on the same page as to what they want to get from the state.

So, if this case is likely to be pled out, and your son has a public defender who is working very hard for him such as the last one you mentioned, and he's happy with the level of representation that he has got, that's valuable and I wouldn't be so quick to replace him or her.

2) statements made over the phone are hearsay and not admissible at trial, however, if your son were to make a confession, then that would be an exception to the hearsay rule and could be usable.

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