Do You Need a Lawyer for a First Time DUI in Pennsylvania?
What is the benefit of hiring a private criminal attorney?
Interviewer: Can people get in the ARD program by themselves or is it better to have an attorney to help them get into the program?
Ellis: Anybody can represent themselves for anything. There is a very famous saying, “Anybody who represents themselves has a fool for a client.” I always equate it with being a mechanic. If my car breaks down, I am not a trained mechanic. I have no idea what I am doing. I know I am going to do more harm than good.
I have had clients who retained me, halfway or three-quarters of the way through their case. I have seen situations where they went into court initially to try to defend themselves and they were taken advantage of by the police and the prosecutor.
Whether it is a traffic ticket or whether it is a homicide, you should always get an attorney when you have to go to court. In a DUI, you go to jail. You lose your license. You could have a conviction on your record. So, it is too serious to go in without somebody who knows what they are doing.
Interviewer: What are the benefits of hiring a private attorney versus a public defender?
Ellis: Honestly, there are plenty of good public defenders. I have a lot of friends in the public defender’s office that I initially went up against when I was a DA. We have become friends since. However, the problem with public defenders is you get what you pay for.
Most of the time, with the public defender you typically do not meet your attorney until maybe two minutes before you go to see the judge. So, how prepared can they be? Honestly, they are overworked, and they are underpaid.
With a private attorney, it is more about customer service. It is more about being able to get your attorney 24 hours a day if there is an emergency. It is really a question of experience too because some of the public defenders are not very experienced.
Interviewer: Do private attorneys have more time to spend with the clients because their caseloads are less?
Ellis: I do not know, necessarily, that their caseload is less. A public defender, honestly, is a 9 to 5 job. Public offenders do not get paid very much. It is a very stressful job because they are constantly in trial. This is not to say being a private attorney is not stressful, but we certainly have the resources to put into a case.
We have investigators that we can hire. We have expert toxicologists that we rely upon. We also have a network of peers who we speak to about our cases, for advice. So, I think you get better representation with private counsel.