Interviewer: How about the entire case itself: the criminal side plus the administrative side? How would you advise someone who is saying I’m going to defend myself versus I’m going to just get a public defender versus hiring a private lawyer? What are the benefits and drawbacks to those scenarios?
Court: If you’re going to try and defend yourself, you’re asking for trouble because you’re basically relying on the prosecutor to just be really nice to you and give you a good deal for no other reason than that they feel bad for you or that they want to be fair. You cannot go to trial without knowing rules of evidence and procedural things you need to know to be an attorney. You just can’t do it.
Almost every question you might try to ask would be objected to. Any evidence you tried to offer could be objected to because you might try to offer it in the wrong way. Going to trial is not even an option.
Also, you don’t have the knowledge of what the common plea bargaining deals are. You don’t know what is a good DUI case versus what is a bad DUI case. You might not realize that a police officer has done something really wrong and you just don’t know that because you don’t have familiarity with DUI law.
As far as going with a public defender, in my opinion public defenders are good lawyers. In Utah, many of the public defenders are actually private attorneys as well. We have a contract system where public defender contracts are offered to private attorneys, so you might have an attorney that practices private law, but in one particular area of the state, and he also handles all the public defense cases in that court in front of that judge. That’s fine.
The problem with having a public defender doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not they are good lawyers. It’s that they don’t have the time to put into your case. They are literally swamped with dozens and dozens of cases. They might have 50 or 60 at a time.
They don’t have the time to talk to witnesses. They don’t have the time to interview police. They don’t have the time to visit the scene of the arrest and look over the documents that were submitted by the police. It’s really difficult for them to put in the time necessary to give you an effective defense.