Public Defender or Private Attorney. There’s Also Another Option. I’m often asked to step in when a Public Defender is already representing a defendant. Sometimes a family member, frustrated or unhappy with the progress of the case, wants a ‘second opinion’. Other times, the defendant may be exploring the feasibility of retaining private counsel.
Although I typically advise prospective clients that a public defender can provide competent, often excellent, criminal defense services, a defendant can also benefit from the assistance of a private attorney. A private attorney generally has more time to devote to a case than a public defender who may be overwhelmed with a high case load. A private attorney may also have more experience as an attorney, or more experience with a particular case type than a public defender, although the public defender may have handled many more cases, all things being equal.
Yet, the benefits of a private attorney come at a cost, literally – and some individuals or families may find that cost too high. In Arizona, there may be a third option.
When a private attorney is hired by a defendant or the defendant’s family to work in conjunction with a public defender who is already assigned to the case, that private attorney is referred to as “Knapp counsel.” The term Knapp counsel comes from the Arizona case State v. Knapp, 114 Ariz. 531 (1977). Hiring Knapp counsel is ideal for a defendant with limited resources, but where the defendant or the defendant’s family desires to provide for a more comprehensive defense at a significantly lower cost than if only private counsel was retained.
When I am hired on as ‘Knapp counsel’, I may rely on the resources of the state in defending a case, including (where appropriate) paying for investigators, expert witnesses, DNA testing, blood or fingerprint analysis, or other experts needed to defend against the criminal charges. In most cases, Knapp counsel will work with the assigned public defender as a team, and help assure the best, aggressive defense.
If you or a family member is in need of an experienced criminal defense attorney, and a public defender has already been appointed, you might consider exploring this additional option for a comprehensive defense.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.