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The Difference Between Hiring A Private Attorney, Utilizing A Public Defender And Self-Representation

Interviewer: What would be the difference between hiring an attorney and then working with a public defender or someone just representing themselves?

Matthew Murillo: In the case of a misdemeanor, one of the biggest differences is that with hiring a private attorney as opposed to representing themselves or having the public defender appointed is that the person doesn’t have to go to court. A private attorney can appear for them at every court appearance, where the individual representing themselves may have to take the full day off of work to make a 15 to 20 minutes court appearance. That is one benefit  The others pertain to knowledge and time.

People Generally Do Not Have Sufficient Knowledge to Adequately Represent Themselves in Court

With respect to a comparison between the private attorney and an individual representing themselves; the individual may not have knowledge to actually adequately represent themselves. If they want to study up on that, that’s fine, it’s something that they maybe could do a decent job of but they’re going to have to spend hours doing so. Compared to someone like myself, it’s what I do every single day. So I’ve gained a great understanding of what issues may occur in what situations,  how to go about fighting those issues best, along with the experience of doing it on a daily basis.

Public Defenders May Not Devote An Adequate Amount of Time to a Client Due to Heavy Caseloads

With respect to the public defender, it’s kind of hit or miss.  I hear things from other clients that come in after they’ve had a public defender. Some of them have had great experiences, some of them haven’t. The main complaint with public defender’s office is that they usually don’t have that time to devote to the case. People often complain about only getting to speak with the public defender for maybe 5 to 10 minutes just before their hearing. Contrast that with my office, if you have questions, you pick up the phone and call.  Send me an e-mail.  Send me a text. You contact me fairly quickly.  I’d be glad to spend an hour or two on the phone with you or sitting down with you in my office and going over details of your case to make sure that you understand everything about it.  So, it kind of depends on the person and how important the case really is to them.

Good Conduct Will Not Help to Reduce or Dismiss a Case Unless There’s a Legal Basis

Interviewer: Do you think that courts are unsympathetic to a person’s case when it comes to a DUI? Is there a sort of mercy?  Does it even matter if someone’s a good person or has a family or never been in trouble before?

Matthew Murillo: Yes and no. If somebody is arrested for DUI and charged with the DUI, because of the prevalence of the offense, Courts, judges, district attorneys, they’re not necessarily sympathetic about it. They’re not going to show a lot of mercy. But if a person has no prior record, if their case details aren’t too bad,  and there are some issues with the probable cause or the chemical test, then the personal details of being a good person or having a family to support may help reduce the offense or potentially dismiss it depending on what issues are there. Those characteristics, though, they won’t really help unless you have a legal basis to reduce or dismiss the offense to begin with.

Potential Additional Charges that May Accompany a DUI Charge

Interviewer: When someone’s arrested for a DUI? What are all the possible charges that can follow that?

Matthew Murillo: There are DUI charges, that’s going to be number 1. It’s going to be a vehicle code violation of sections 23152(A) and 23152(B). Recently, there had been several other changes to section 23152 of the Vehicle Code and it all relates to circumstances of the offense, whether or not the person’s in a commercial vehicle, in a personal vehicle and if they have a commercial license. Whether it’s alcohol only, whether it’s alcohol and drugs and whether it’s a drug DUI, whether they’re above the limit, whether they’re under 21, over 21 and whether they’re on probation.

The Consequences of Some of the Potential Additional Charges are Worse than a DUI Itself

So you’ve got a variety of potential DUI charges that could attach depending on that person’s specific scenario. If they do have prior offenses and their license is already suspended because of the DUI, they can also be looking at driving on a suspended license violations which, if the suspended license is due to a DUI, those consequences can be just as bad if not worse than the DUI conviction as well.

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