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Is it Advisable to Have a Court-Appointed Public Defender Handle Your DUI Defense?


Interviewer: What about the people that think, “Oh, I’ll just get by with a public defender” or represent themselves? What’s chance do these people have now with the new procedures?

Aaron: In San Francisco itself you do have some great public defenders. I’ve seen some great attorneys come through that system, and a lot of them become judges and they’re good judges. But, the public defender does not have the resources and is not allowed to defend someone at a DMV hearing.

A Public Defender Cannot Represent You at the DMV Hearing

The whole license issue with DMV is not going to be dealt with, and that alone is reason why you do not want to get a public defender on a DUI case if you can afford a private attorney. The public defenders are supposed to advise their clients, like private attorneys do, on the local systems.

Public Defenders Rely on the Goodwill of the Judicial and Political System

As I said, there are great public defenders in San Francisco and some other counties, but one of the problems with the public defenders offices is that they’re run by people in political positions who depend on the county or the courts for funding. And what happens is they worry about angering the courts and if they do, they can lose positions, meaning attorneys, and staff. And so, if they make too many waves, especially in this economy, that’s a concern.

A Private Attorney Is More Likely to Procure a More Advantageous Plea Bargain

So, I believe that in San Francisco the public defender’s office is not pressing as hard as they could, not allotting enough time on their cases which could force the DA’s office to give better deals on cases. They’re not putting time in because I think they’re worried that they will anger the court and lose funding. That’s my own theory. I’ve talked to a number of people about that who would agree with that, and it’s too bad. And that’s not how defensive cases should operate.

Interviewer: Overall, it sounds like money is being used to shape the justice system now in the Bay Area counties.

The State of the Economy Affects Judicial System Procedures

Aaron: Absolutely. When I began practicing criminal defense and DUI defense over 20 years ago, this was not an issue. This was not a problem. Now it is. And when decisions are being made and the rights of clients are being jeopardized and taken away based on budget issues and courts, that’s just wrong. And it’s just one of many consequences of the economy that we have been dealing with for the last number of years. So, as the economy goes, it seems, so goes the justice system.

By Aaron Bortel

Aaron Bortel

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