Private Attorney or Public Defender?

Question: In a DWI case, is it better to have a private attorney instead of a public defender?

Answer: Too many people think that having a public defender is the kiss of death. I’ve actually heard people say to their public defender, “No offense, but I need to get a real lawyer.” Are there public defenders who aren’t good at their job? Of course! But there are also a shocking number of private attorneys who aren’t very good at their job. Some of the public defenders in Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, and Ontario counties are very skilled attorneys. There are problems with having a public defender work on your DWI case, but the problem is not skill.

The first problem is that public defenders have large caseloads. It's not that they don't want to spend a lot of time with their clients or spend a lot of time working on their clients' cases; it's simply that they don't have a lot of time to spend. It is unusual for a public defender to see their clients outside of court, and you can understand why if you watch them at the courthouse. When a public defender arrives at a local courthouse, they are immediately besieged by anywhere between five and forty clients, and that is just for one court. They have to go to another courthouse the next night and see another batch of clients. If a PD spends four hours a day meeting clients at court appearances, that only leaves four hours of work day to begin thinking about case strategies. If a public defender has 25 clients scheduled on any given night, and if they have four hours to prepare, that means that each client gets 9.6 minutes of preparation attention.

A private attorney has a much smaller caseload and is therefore able to focus more on specific issues pertaining to clients and spend more time thinking about how a case might be won at trial. Our firm, Attorney Jeannie Michalski spend hours discussing cases. Its through that process of brainstorming when some of our best strategies are born, and it couldn’t happen if we only had 9.6 minutes to prepare a case.

The second problem with having a public defender on a DWI case is that they are only there to help you with the criminal portion of the case. Don't forget: A DWI is really two cases in one. There's a criminal case in which you are charged with a criminal violation in a court of law, and there's also a civil case before the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. The civil case has very serious consequences in terms of your license. A public defender isn't there to take care of your DMV case, so if you happen to be someone who has refused a breath test, and the public defender pleads your case out, they are not going to go the DMV hearing with you. The public defender is only there to take care of your criminal case.

At Jeannie D. Michalski, LLP, we take into consideration both the criminal case and the civil case. And furthermore, as private defense attorneys who are experienced in employment law as well as DWI law, we can take into consideration some of the very serious consequences that may take place as a result of a licensed professional being convicted of a DWI. If, for example, a nurse is convicted of a DWI, there can be far-reaching consequences with the Office of Professional Discipline, and possibly placement on the Medicaid or Medicare Exclusion Lists.

Jeannie D. Michalski has what we call an integrated practice. We are experienced Rochester DWI lawyers, but we also have experience in other practice areas, and we can integrate solutions for problems you may not even realize you have when you come to visit us. If you are facing a DWI charge, schedule a free DWI consultation at our office in Brighton or Avon. We can help you save all your licenses – not just the one that lets you drive.

Call the Rochester DWI lawyers at Jeannie D. Michalski, LLP, today. Our number is (585) 351-2500, and your initial DWI consultation is free.