Monday, August 1, 2011

Public Defenders Out Perform Their Counterparts in Court

The Texas law blog Grits for Breakfast recently analyzed a report from the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics indicating that public defenders fair better than court appointed counsel and at time privately retained attorneys in criminal courtrooms.

According to Grits for Breakfast, public defenders appear to be getting better outcomes, even, than privately hired lawyers in certain specific areas of represetnation, "Among convicted defendants sentenced to serve time either in prison or jail, those using public defenders received shorter average sentences than those with private attorneys or assigned counsel. Defendants with public defenders were sentenced to an average of 23 months of confinement, while those with hired attorneys or assigned counsel were sentenced to incarceration terms averaging 31 and 35 months, respectively."

The difference in sentence length is mainly due to drug crimes. For reasons I cannot fathom, private attorneys' clients received substantially longer sentences for drug crimes than those represented by PDs: "convicted defendants with private counsel were sentenced to periods of confinement 37% longer than their counterparts with public defenders," reported Grits for Breakfast.

Appointed counsel received even worse sentencing outcomes: Comparing public defenders and appointed counsel, the latter received sentences 33% longer for violent crimes, 22% higher in property crimes, and 40% higher in "public order" offenses, reported Grits for Breakfast.

To read more:

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