Legal Guide

Why should I Hire a DUI Defense Attorney vs Public Defender?

It’s late, you’ve just finished tying one on at the local pub and it’s time to head home.  A small voice in your head tells you that you should probably call an Uber or maybe even walk home but that voice is just a muddled whisper behind the haze of intoxicant floating in your brain.  You get in your car, put the key in the ignition, and start home.  After a few minutes of what your alcohol addled brain would consider impeccable driving, you suddenly see light flashing behind and hear the tell-tale cry of a police siren. 

After failing a roadside sobriety test, you find yourself handcuffed in the back of the police car.  Congratulations: You’ve joined the nearly 1.5M people arrested annually for drunk driving.  In a few hours, once you’ve sobered up in the local drunk tank, you’re going to have some choices.  One of the most important is to either hire a DUI defense attorney privately or trust the court appointed public defender.

If you want to fight your DUI arrest, you’re going to need someone with an understanding of these particular cases. We’re inundated with media campaigns posing stories of loved ones lost and opportunities stolen by the reckless behavior of someone driving under the influence.  These emotional ads resonate with many people and could cause the jury to view you in a negative light before ever hearing an opening statement.  The best way to combat this predisposition is to have a good defense.  Phoenix DUI Defense lists many such defenses that your attorney might use on your behalf.

The first thing that happens after you’re arrested for a DUI is a DMV hearing.  While optional, this is the only way to argue against a suspension of your license that, in most states, is automatic and could last up to one year.  For most of us, a yearlong suspension would result in dire consequences, including possible termination of employment.  Of course, as it is optional, your right to legal counsel doesn’t apply here.  If you don’t hire a DUI defense attorney, you’ll be flying solo.  Should you hire an attorney, the DMV hearing also gives them an opportunity to preview the case the state has against you.  While your attorney would have access to evidence, hearing how it is presented could give your attorney an edge when it comes time to argue in your DUI hearing.

Even if you decide to pass on the DMV hearing, you’d still be taking a chance going with a public defender.  Our justice system is permeated with districts where the public defenders can’t keep up with the number of cases being dropped in their laps.  This results in defendants often sitting in jail, waiting for their day in court.  One such case saw a man waiting over two years for his trial, each court date being delayed because his defense just didn’t have time to adequately prepare.  And when they do get to your case, you’ll be one of sometimes 80 cases in a week that your court appointed attorney has to handle.  Because of this unmanageable load, public defenders have a tendency to push their clients to make plea bargains, and not always in the best interest of the client.  In some areas the vast majority of cases are settled out of court, most not even receiving a preliminary hearing.  Then, of course, there’s the issue of trust. 

Controversial though it may be to mention, the public defender is an employee of the state.  The same state that is prosecuting you.  While most of the public defenders will honor their obligation to represent you to the best of their ability, many people have a hard time with this arrangement and suspect their public defenders of pushing plea bargains on their clients because then it removes the strict evidentiary requirement that a trial poses.  Trust is an important aspect of a relationship with your attorney and this mistrust can provide a shaky foundation.

Being arrested for any reason is traumatizing.  Being arrested for a DUI is another matter altogether.  Between the standard court and DMV hearings, you’re thrust into a maze of legal troubles that can be nearly impossible to navigate alone or with the potential haphazard assistance of a court appointed attorney.  One wrong turn could result in suspension of your license, loss of employment, or even jail time.  You need someone to guide you through the process.  DUI defense attorneys know where the pitfalls are.  They will be able to devote the time and care to your case and help you clear the hurdles and get the best possible outcome.  In this case, you definitely get what you pay for.

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