For many people convicted in the criminal justice system, hiring an attorney was not an option. They had to rely on a public defender, which is the attorney assigned by the court when you cannot pay for legal counsel on your own. While you certainly do need an attorney by your side for any felony criminal case in Wisconsin, it is almost always going to be in your best interest to hire one.
This is not because public defenders are bad at their jobs. They are just as competent as any lawyer you may hire. The issue, according to The New York Times, is public defenders have too many cases. Since they cannot turn down cases because the court assigns them, they end up with huge caseloads that prevent them from providing adequate time to your case to build a proper defense.
You may think this violates your right to effective representation, but the courts do not agree. The burden of proof to show your attorney did an ineffective job is high. Not being able to devote a fair amount of time to your case hardly ever persuades a court that your defense was ineffective.
What this means for you is that appealing your case on the ground that your attorney did not do a good job will get you nowhere. So, not only do you have a defense in court that is not as strong as it could be but you also have little recourse if you end up convicted of the crime.
The reality is that public defenders have up to five times more cases than they should. An attorney you hire will not have this caseload since he or she can choose which cases to take on. There is a significant difference between the type of defense you will get from a public defender and an attorney you pay for out of your pocket. That is well worth considering if you are facing charges. This information is for education only and is not legal advice.