What’s the Difference Between a Public Defender and a Private Attorney?

If you find yourself in a tough legal situation, then you will need a lawyer. Not having a lawyer is unacceptable. Pleading guilty is unacceptable. Surrendering without a fight is not an option. You need a lawyer who will represent you to the best of his or her ability. A lawyer can save you money and even keep your driver’s or occupational licenses from being suspended. Those criminal charges will not just disappear or get reduced without the aid of a lawyer. However, you will not know this if you just enter a guilty plea. Never pled guilty at your first appearance or arraignment, and always demand a lawyer, even if you cannot afford a private attorney.

Private Attorney vs Public Defender

There is a difference between having a private attorney represent you and having a public defender represent you. Public defenders are more limited in their representation. For example, if you are charged with DWI a public defender will not be able to make an appearance for you at your MVD implied consent hearing. As a result, initial suspension of your driver’s license will occur. However, a private attorney will not only attend your MVD implied consent hearing, but he or she will also demand discovery. At the implied consent hearing, your private attorney will attempt to avoid having your license suspended, and will fight for the return of your license.

Your criminal matter is not unique to a public defender. Public defenders often deal with hundreds of cases at any given time and they might handle dozens of cases on any given docket, so you, as their client, end up being just one of those. Public defenders have very limited time to conduct pre-trial recorded interviews of the police and witnesses. Because time is so limited, the public defender will not be able to give your case the attention it so warrants.

However, the opposite is true for a private attorney. A private attorney will have a lighter caseload. As such, a private attorney will be able to devote more time and energy to your case. A private attorney will be able to examine your case more closely and communicate with you about every aspect of your defense. A private attorney will also be happy to answer all of your questions and concerns.


Before you hire an attorney, you should research him or her. Seek out information about their experience with handling such cases. It stands to reason that the more experience your private attorney has, then the more familiar he or she will be with courtroom proceedings, and the more comfortable he will be in his interactions with the district attorneys, the judges and the county.

Whether or not your case goes to trial, your attorney should also have trial experience. District attorneys know whether an attorney has trial experience. You are more inclined to receive better dispositions with a private attorney when the district attorney knows that that defense attorney is not afraid to go to trial.

Avoid an attorney who has a general practice. For example, an attorney who makes their bread and butter being a divorce lawyer will not have the time to really familiarize himself or herself with the nuances of criminal defense and the changing laws of DWI.

Therefore you’ll want to hire an attorney like Mr. Klopfer, who concentrates much of his practice to criminal and DWI defense, and has done so for over a decade; Mr. Klopfer began his legal career prosecuting DWIs in 2004.


Gathering evidence is crucial. Although the police report is helpful, evidence can materialize in other different forms. Video is often beneficial. Such video can help with effective cross-examination of the police officer. Such video can also help raise doubt. It may help to prove to the judge, or jury, that the officer did not conduct the investigation properly. Regarding DWI, such video can help raise doubt about the validity of the results from the field sobriety tests, or the breathalyzer test. Actually, sometimes video can prove that you simply were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident.

Certain factors, such as pre-existing medical conditions, can affect your performance during a DWI field sobriety test, as well as the outcome of a chemical, blood, and breath test. An officer is trained to look for several clues of possible impairment. Although you may have done one thing wrong, you may have also done 23 things right, which does not constitute impairment. However, those 23 things may not have been included in the officer’s report. Providing such information to your attorney will only strengthen your defense.

Contact an Experienced Gallup/McKinley County Private Attorney

If you are seeking more information on hiring an attorney, then your next best step is to schedule an initial consultation. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling experienced private criminal defense attorney Barry Klopfer, (505) 722-9331, and schedule a consultation today.