Public defenders are lawyers who represent individual defendants for cases ranging from felonies and misdemeanors to traffic cases. Usually, a person must prove to the court the inability to pay a lawyer’s fees, and so the lawyer is paid by the government either as a regular employee or on a per-case basis depending on the needs of the state or municipality.
Public defenders are required to appear in court to represent clients and often manage several trials at once. They should investigate the facts of a case to gain a better understanding of what has occurred, and then advise the client regarding the appropriate action to be taken, including any pre-trial motions which should be filed. Prior to appearing in court, the public defender should instruct the client regarding what the court proceedings will be like, and may negotiate on the client’s behalf to reach an agreement on sentence time or an acquittal. It may also be necessary to negotiate an appropriate bond amount.
Those in this position should always look out for what is best for clients, but also for the state attorney’s office. They may also be appointed to help people secure social services, and it is often necessary to work with various social services agencies to help clients receive the help they need.
Public Defender Tasks
Represent clients in cases involving felony or misdemeanor charges, delinquent youth, mental health or disability issues, and abuse or neglect.
Conduct research using law libraries or computer databases and develop strategic plans.
Draft legal documents and advise clients on legal matters.