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Using a Florida Public Defender for a DUI Case


While many of the public defenders in South Florida are excellent and selfless attorneys, the truth of the matter is that these public defenders must deal with significant limitations and hardships that ultimately may affect their legal representation in ways that private South Florida criminal defense attorneys do not. Since the public defender versus private criminal defense attorney topic is so broad in scope, the following list is tailored to the downsides associated with using a public defender rather than a private criminal defense attorney as your legal counsel when charged with a DUI in South Florida:

(Remember that not everyone is entitled to a public defender in Florida. To qualify for one in Florida you must fill out an application; must be facing jail or prison as a possible sentence in a criminal traffic, misdemeanor, or felony case; and the judge must find you to be indigent under Florida Statute §27.52 or be financially unable to afford a private attorney.)

  • Public defenders typically carry enormous caseloads of upwards of 100 cases at any given time.
  • You will not get to pick your public defender; instead; one will be randomly assigned to you. You could get lucky and be assigned the best public defender in your county who happens to specialize in DUI cases or you could get the brand new assistant public defender that just got hired last week whose first case happens to be your case. It is the luck of the draw and you have no say in the matter. Absent extenuating circumstances, you cannot trade in your public defender for a new one.
  • If you use a public defender rather than a private attorney, your case could take longer to get resolved since public defenders have large caseloads and as a result, there is an increased likelihood of your public defender having court appearance conflicts and other delays. Also, if your public defender is working on higher priority cases such as a murder case, your DUI case may keep getting pushed back.
  • Your public defender cannot represent you in any civil context related to your DUI or at an administrative hearing such as a driver’s license suspension hearing related to your DUI. Your private criminal defense attorney could represent you in these contexts.
  • Public defenders typically only get minimal face-time with their clients, often just minutes before entering a plea or the client is set to stand trial. Private attorneys have much smaller caseloads and can spend more significant time with each of their clients reviewing their cases in detail and consulting with their clients as often as they or their clients’ desire. Also, private attorneys have the time and resources to reach out to their network of private investigators, skilled witnesses, paralegals, associate attorneys, and private chemical testing laboratories to help with their clients’ cases and defenses.
  • A public defender assigned to your case may lack specialized knowledge of defending DUI cases since public defenders often simultaneously handle a wide variety of cases at one time.

If you have been charged with a DUI in South Florida and are considering “settling” for a public defender (or no legal representation at all) because you are thinking “Why fight the case when I know I was drinking and driving?” or “Why should I spend the money for a private attorney when everyone knows DUI cases aren’t winnable?”, remember that as bleak as your situation seems, there are defenses to a DUI criminal case. But to defend your case, you’ll need an experienced DUI defense lawyer, like Yale L. Galanter and his team of his South Florida criminal defense attorneys to protect your rights. Over the years, the lawyers at Galanter Law have gained the knowledge necessary to evaluate and defend DUI cases. Our targeted experience allows us to determine the strengths and weaknesses in DUI cases. Ultimately, our goal in defending your DUI case is to receive a dismissal or receive plea offers to lesser offenses, such as reckless or careless driving.