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Public Defender or Private Lawyer: Making an Informed Choice for Your DUI Charge

Facing a DUI charge in Central Pennsylvania is incredibly frightening – with an automatic license suspension and the potential for hefty fines, mandatory substance abuse programs, and even jail time. When it comes to DUI charges, time is of the essence, especially when seeking to have your license reinstated. Individuals facing a DUI charge have a difficult and vital decision to make: public defender or private lawyer. Each has its benefits and detriments and often depends on your unique circumstances and the circumstances of your case.

If you or a loved one are facing a DUI charge in Central Pennsylvania, you need to act fast to mitigate the potential damage and reach the best possible outcome. You need an advocate who will fight aggressively to protect you, your rights, your freedom, and your future. The experienced DUI defense team at Grace Legal Offices is ready to help.

Public Defenders: Limited Resources at Little to No Cost


  • Cost-Effective. Public defenders are appointed to the court to represent individuals who can’t afford a private lawyer, at little or no cost. Public defenders are subsidized in whole or in part by the government for individuals who meet the financial eligibility criteria. 
  • Experience (Sometimes). Public defenders are often seasoned criminal defense lawyers, with an entire caseload dedicated to criminal law. Because of this, they often have extensive experience practicing criminal law. However, if your DUI case isn’t too complex, you may be assigned an attorney new to the practice of law or new to the field, as the chronic lack of funding and staff means that more seasoned professionals are needed for more complex cases.


  • Overworked and Understaffed. While a rewarding career, it’s an unfortunate reality that public defenders are underpaid when compared to private lawyers. Not only is it hard for public defender offices to attract experienced lawyers because of this, but they’re also critically underfunded, meaning that they can’t keep too many lawyers on staff. This leaves the lawyers they have carrying a heavy caseload, often beyond the recommendations of legal ethics, reflecting the work of up to five full-time private lawyers in the busiest offices, according to a New York Times article. They often can’t answer their phones to address questions and issues, and often won’t have the time to contact you much before your court date.
  • Less Access to Resources. Public defender offices struggle to employ enough lawyers to meet their caseloads, so they often don’t have paralegals, law clerks, or full-time investigators. Moreover, the best investigators and expert witnesses would make pennies to the dollar compared to private work, so even when public defender experts and investigators can dedicate a little time to a case, they’re often not as experienced. Much of the investigation is left to the lawyers, who aren’t trained in conducting thorough investigations and have critically limited time on their hands.
  • You Get Who You Get and You Can’t Get Upset. Public defenders are generally assigned their cases, and can’t pick clients or cases. When the lawyer doesn’t have much say in the cases they’re taking, the client gets even less. Clients can’t interview multiple public defenders to find a good fit for their case and their needs.

Private Lawyer: Your Choice, Representation Tailored to You


  • Early Intervention. Public defenders are assigned once the arrest has taken place and the case has been processed. Even so, clients often don’t meet their public defender until they’re due in court. In DUI cases, where time is of the essence, early intervention is critical to reinstate your license via administrative hearing, to address the results of any testing, and to mitigate the consequences of the charge. The window to reach the best possible outcome closes quickly, and you don’t want to wait until your court date to evaluate your options. With a private attorney, you can have someone working on your case quickly, sometimes even on the same day.
  • Tailored Attention and Access. Private attorneys universally handle fewer cases and have fewer deadlines. They aren’t forced to take on more cases to compensate for an understaffed office. This gives private attorneys ample time to dedicate to each client and case, providing personalized attention. Because of this, private attorneys can tailor their services to your needs, goals, and circumstances. Moreover, because private attorneys aren’t juggling too many cases, they are more available to answer questions, assuage concerns, and address issues as they arise.
  • The Resources You Need. Private lawyers have the resources to dedicate experienced investigators and expert witnesses to your case, without a ticking clock of when they need to move on to the next case. This ensures not only that there is an investigation and expert eyes on your case, but that their services are top-notch.
  • Your Decision. Unlike a public defender, you’re not assigned a private attorney. You’ll have the opportunity to consult multiple attorneys, often for free, so you can compare their services, rates, and levels of experience. You’ll be able to pick the lawyer that can best meet your needs.


  • Varying Levels of Experience. Not all private lawyers specialize in criminal defense the way public defenders do, and their caseload may span different areas of law. Because of this, their level of experience may vary. It’s important to look for a skilled and seasoned private lawyer who knows their way around DUI cases, and who has client testimonials to back that up.
  • Cost. The age-old adage you get what you pay for rings true. Hiring a private lawyer can be expensive, and finances are often a determinative factor for potential clients. However, many experienced attorneys offer reasonable rates and flexible payment plans. With the severe consequences of a DUI and the potential a long-term disruption to your daily life even months or years after the case is behind you, representation from an experienced private DUI defense attorney may be well worth the cost. 

Your Expert DUI Defense Team: How Grace Legal Can Help

Whether you ultimately decide on a public defender or private lawyer for your Central Pennsylvania DUI charge, it’s vital to make an informed decision based on your unique needs, circumstances, and goals. Regardless of your choice, obtaining competent legal counsel is key to navigating the complexities of Pennsylvania DUI charges.

The experienced DUI defense lawyers at Grace Legal Offices serve the people of Central Pennsylvania and beyond with immense pride. We are ready to fight aggressively to mitigate the impact of your DUI charge and to reach the best possible outcome. Contact us or call us at (717) 635-8780 today!

Picture of Kathleen Gadalla

Kathleen Gadalla

Kathleen is the Founder of Grace Legal Offices. For Kathleen, Grace Legal Office’s family and criminal law practice is more than a professional choice. The law is her calling and she is a strong advocate for her clients. She has a profound belief, based on her educational experience and legal experience, that those facing the most trying legal circumstances deserve more than just a good lawyer. They are entitled to be treated with compassion, transparency, and for Kathleen, the dignity that stems from her deep Christian faith.