When you’re facing criminal charges in Wisconsin, whether you’re looking at a felony or a misdemeanor, it can be tough to decide whether you want to hire an attorney, rely on the court’s public defender, or defend yourself.
It’s important that you know the court will only appoint a public defender to work on your case if you can’t afford to hire an attorney. Everyone in this country has the right to work with a legal professional when they’re facing criminal charges; that’s why the courts have no problem appointing an attorney to help you.
However, if you can afford an attorney, you have two options: you can hire one or you can defend yourself.
For most people, defending themselves in court is a bad idea. (However, in some cases, that’s the only alternative to a public defender. If you cannot afford an attorney, it’s almost always a good idea to go with a public defender.)
The Difference Between a Public Defender and a Hired Attorney
Public defenders are court-appointed attorneys who are paid by the government. They’re often overburdened with cases; they’re typically limited in the amount of time they can spend on any case, they usually don’t have access to extensive resources (such as public funds to hire an expert for testimony), and you don’t really get to choose which public defender takes your case.
A public defender might be handling up to 200 cases at one time, and that’s incredibly overwhelming.
For many people charged with crimes in Milwaukee or Wisconsin to find the resources to hire an attorney who isn’t overburdened—and who has the time and resources to provide the best possible legal support – it may be important.