Public Defenders vs. Private Attorneys

Public Defenders vs. Private Attorneys in New Jersey

Many individuals charged with a crime in the State of New Jersey are faced with the decision to proceed with a public defender or retain a private attorney. While many may choose to seek legal counsel from an attorney from a private law firm like Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates, New Jersey citizens are fortunate to have a state public defender system that ensures everyone proper legal representation. The prominence of New Jersey’s Office of the Public Defender is evident in the system’s historical foundation and over time public defenders have assisted many individuals who have been unable to afford the costs of hiring an attorney from the private legal community.

The U.S. Supreme Court introduced the concept of the public defender in the 1963 case Gideon v. Wainright, which ruled that a state had the obligation to provide legal representation to indigent defendants in criminal cases. As a result of this decision, several states developed and funded their own public defender offices. In fact, New Jersey’s Office of the Public Defender, established on July 1, 1967, was one of the first centralized systems of its kind.

Since its founding, the primary objective of the New Jersey’s Office of the Public Defender, according to N.J.S.A. 2A:158A-1 et seq., has been to ensure that the all individuals charged with criminal action are granted their constitutional right to legal counsel. With an established system that guarantees legal representation, innocent individuals are no longer convicted because they cannot afford an attorney and those who are guilty will only be convicted after a fair and just trial. Since then, New Jersey’s Office of the Public Defender has offered legal counsel at the Superior Court trial level in all 21 counties and they currently have attorneys assigned to 22 regional offices all over the state.

It is true that public defenders are considerably less expensive than private counsel and that some public defenders garner tremendous knowledge by working a variety of cases that private and specialized attorneys never experience. There are other factors, however, that one should consider before selecting a public defender over a private attorney. First and foremost, public defenders in New Jersey are not entirely free and the state charges as much as $200 for filing an application with a public defender’s office. Second, those seeking public legal counsel have no choice in the matter when it comes to who will be representing them. This could result in individuals being assigned a lawyer with less experience in their specific type of case. It is also not uncommon for clients to be assigned an overworked attorney who is unable to provide the same level of detailed focus and dedicated time that a private legal firm can provide.

When retaining a private attorney, you should always research and meet with the attorney to see if it is a good fit. At Rosenberg | Perry & Associates, our extensive experience and dedicated team will work to service your individual case.