One of the first questions a court asks a person accused of a crime is whether the defendant wants to hire his own attorney. Many people do not know the difference between a court appointed lawyer and a public defender. Others wonder whether they should use an attorney appointed by the court or focus their resources to hire an attorney of their choice.

Indigent criminal defendants are entitled to have a lawyer appointed at the expense of the federal or state court. Some state jurisdictions in Virginia have a public defender's office and other jurisdictions do not. State public defenders are paid a salary and will handle every case involving an indigent criminal defendant unless there is a conflict of interest. Some legal experts believe that our public defenders are overworked and underpaid.

Court appointed lawyers have agreed to represent indigent criminal defendants. The court, not the defendant choses which attorney to appoint to each case. Virginia state court appointed lawyers are among the lowest paid indigent criminal defense attorneys in America. In 2007, the New York Times published a study that found that the average sentence for clients of court appointed or public defenders was almost three years longer than the sentences of clients represented by private lawyers.

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees an individual the right to select counsel of his own choice. A person that hires a lawyer has an opportunity to chose an attorney that is well suited to the case at hand. Exercising this right allows for a lawyer client relationship where both lawyer and client work together because they have chosen each other.

If you or someone you know are in need of experienced legal representation after being accused of a DUI, drug crime or violent crime in the Richmond area, contact a Richmond criminal defense attorney to properly address your case right away.