If you are arrested for a DUI and are thinking of having a California Public Defender (PD) represent you in your drunk driving case, there are some things you need to understand.
If you have property or have a job, you probably do not qualify for a Public Defender. When requesting a California Public Defender, most criminal court judges make you swear under oath about your employment and property.
If are somehow eligible for a public defender in your California DUI court case:
A. California public defenders do not do a DMV hearing; and
B. Your PD attorney will not be available to discuss your DUI case with you until they have been officially appointed by the Judge no sooner than the date of your first DUI court appearance, or DUI arraignment.
Because drunk driving or DUI is a California misdemeanor, California courts treat DUI cases harshly. You may not represent yourself.
C. You can't choose which public defender you want for your DUI. Many PD's are / were great DUI lawyers, e.g. Felipe Placencia or Bruce Kapsack in their PD days.
You may get an excellent PD lawyer, one that is less than stellar, or worst yet - a PD who is not familiar with the complexities of California DUI Defense.
As with California attorneys, there are good and bad ones, but if you are assigned to a bad PD lawyer, it's difficult to switch unless you later retain a private California DUI lawyer.
D. California PD lawyers are notoriously overworked. While there may be some good aspects as indicated above, PD attorneys' caseload doesn't allow them the luxury to spend any significant amount of time with any one client yet alone on a highly challenging DUI case. It's not their fault - just too many criminal defense cases and not enough time in the day. Private attorneys will be able to spend more time discussing your DUI case, your DUI defense options and drunk driving defense attorney strategies.
E. Lawyers from the California public defender's office start with low-level offenses (e.g. Drunk Driving cases) and work their way up.
A DUI case like yours may not be assigned to an attorney with very much experience (in terms of # of years practicing California law).
F. PD's are assigned all kinds of cases - not just DUI cases - by a court. This does not allow the public defender to focus on one area of law and they have to be more versed in all areas. It's better to have a DUI attorney who is fortunate to only represent individuals charged with DUI as he or she focuses on just a single particular practice area: DUI / DMV defense.