Hiring a Private Attorney Vs. A Public Defender

You have a right to representation–even if you can not afford it. While working with a public defender may not be your first choice, sometimes you have to do what it takes. Fortunately, it’s not all bad. This infographic by Justice Degree Schools does a great job of breaking it down.

Do public defenders make as much as private attorneys?

No. Public defenders make much less than private attorneys. Making only $51,000 a year vs. the average private attorney making $118,000. Private attorneys can make $500 an hour.

What is the average conviction for someone who hires a public defender vs. a private attorney?

The average jail sentence for someone who hires a private attorney is 31-35 months. The average sentence of 23 months for those who hire a public defender. Surprisingly, public defenders tend to get their clients lesser sentences.

What percent of people represent themselves in court?

Only about 2% of people represent themselves in court when facing criminal charges.

What percent of people in jail are awaiting trial?

2 out of 3 adults in prison are awaiting trial.

What percent of people enter a guilty plea?

This is surprising, most defendants enter a plea of guilty. In fact 96% of people plea guilty before a trial. Much of this has to do with plea bargaining.

How many criminal cases are heard every year?

There are 1 million felony charges, and 18 million misdemeanors cases filed every year.

There are some significant differences–for example, black people are 2x more likely to have their charges reduced if they hire a private attorney vs. working with a public defender.

When you really break down the statistics, there really isn’t a huge difference between hiring a public defender, vs. a private attorney. However, you will need to weigh the pros and cons carefully and come to a decision on your own.