Interviewer: What do you say to people that aren’t comfortable with retaining a lawyer and decide to defend themselves?
Randy Berman: It’s never a great idea to do that. What you think you know about the law isn’t necessarily so. To give yourself the best opportunity to get the best result when you’re dealing with your liberty and you’re dealing with your criminal record and trying to prevent having a criminal record, it makes no sense to go it alone.
The Differences Between a Private Attorney and a Public Defender
Interviewer: What’s the difference between hiring a private attorney and a public defender? What are the advantages especially in a DUI case?
Randy Berman: Public defenders are attorneys. They’re just paid by the government to represent people that don’t have money. There has to be a determination by the court that someone is truly indigent before the court will appoint a public defender to represent that person.
Technically, the people that get the public defender appointed are on the hook for their fees. That generally doesn’t amount to much, but it’s not totally free. If you’re caught lying about your financial position, then you could be charged with perjury because you have to swear out an affidavit that you don’t have any bank accounts, or you don’t have any checking accounts, or you don’t have any stock or pension plan, that you don’t own any homes or vehicles. It’s a tough standard.
Public Defenders are Generally Younger Attorneys with Limited Experience
The public defender versus private attorney is generally one of experience and knowledge because your younger attorney from the public defender’s office is generally put in the traffic crimes division to get experience for more serious crimes later in their career.
With the public defender at this level, you’re getting a person generally that’s pretty close to being right out of law school that doesn’t have the knowledge, not only of trying cases and being successful in that regard and not that experienced in the law and the procedure that are required to be an effective lawyer.
You’re running a risk of being represented by someone that just doesn’t know as much as they should know as opposed to a private attorney who’s been doing this kind of work for a number of years and has the experience.
Is It Advisable To Plead Guilty and Expect Mercy From The Court?
Interviewer: Do you ever have clients who’ve had a DUI and have gone through this ordeal? They’re familiar with the consequences but they want to try to give up and plead guilty and maybe throw themselves in the mercy of the court. What would you tell them?
Randy Berman: It depends on how good or bad their case is. Once the charges are filed and the state attorney provides all the police reports and evidence through the discovery process, sit down, evaluate it and in most DUIs, there are videos that are taken at the scene when you do the road side sobriety test as well as videos from the breath testing stations that they take you to.
An Attorney Considers Multiple Factors Which Decide the Strength of a Case
Those are crucial in deciding the strength of your case if you look good on the video. If I think the case is strong, I’ll tell the client that in my opinion they should fight the charges because my experience shows that good videos without a breathalyzer score are very successful in front of juries.
If they don’t want to run the risk or take the chance to fight the charge and want to plea, that is their prerogative. I don’t force people to fight the charges that they don’t want to in the same way I don’t force people to plea that don’t want to admit wrong doing because they didn’t do it. The decision to fight the charge or to take the best plea deal is always the client’s right and it’s not the lawyers.