76 Questions to Ask a Public Defender

If you’ve been charged with a crime, the first thing you need to do is find a good public defender. A public defender is a lawyer appointed by the court to represent you if you cannot afford your own lawyer 

While most public defenders are excellent lawyers, it’s important that you find one who is a good fit for you and with whom you feel comfortable. Here are a few questions to ask a public defender before deciding whether or not to hire them.

76 Questions you can ask a public defender:

  1. How long have you been practicing law? 
  2. How long have you been a public defender? 
  3. How many cases like mine have you handled? 
  4. What are the possible outcomes of my case? 
  5. What are the chances of me going to trial? 
  6. What are the chances of me winning at trial? 
  7. Can we plea bargain? What would be the terms of a plea bargain? 
  8. What evidence does the prosecution have against me? 
  9. Who will be testifying against me? 
  10. Have you spoken to the witnesses? What did they say? 
  11. What are my options for defending myself? 
  12. Do you think I should take a stand in my own defense? Why or why not? 
  13. Is there anything else I should know about my case or about the criminal justice system in general? 
  14. Have you ever tried a case like mine in front of this judge? 
  15. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of my case? 
  16. Who will be working on my case with you? 
  17. What kind of plea bargain am I likely to get? 
  18. How long do you think it will take to resolve my case? 
  19. What are the risks if we go to trial and lose? 
  20. Have you ever been censured or disciplined by the bar? 
  21. How much experience do you have in this particular court? 
  22. In general, how do you feel about plea bargains? 
  23. For a first-time offender, what kind of sentence am I looking at if I’m convicted? 
  24. Will I have to go to jail if I’m convicted? 
  25. How often should I expect to meet with you between now and the resolution of my case? 
  26. Do you have any other advice for me at this time?
  27. What inspired you to pursue a career as a public defender?
  28. What do you think are the most important skills for a successful public defender?
  29. Can you walk me through a typical day in the life of a public defender?
  30. What was the most challenging case you ever worked on?
  31. What are some of the common misunderstandings about your job?
  32. Can you tell me about a time when you were able to make a real difference in someone’s life?
  33. How do you deal with the emotional toll of your job?
  34. What is your relationship like with prosecutors and police?
  35. How do you work to ensure that your clients receive a fair trial?
  36. What are some of the biggest obstacles you face in your job?
  37. How has your work as a public defender changed since you began practicing law?
  38. What do you see as the future of public defenders in our legal system?
  39. Do you have any advice for someone who is considering a career as a public defender?
  40. What are some of the common misconceptions about people who work as public defenders?
  41. How do you think people’s perceptions of lawyers and judges could be improved?
  42. What would be your dream job (if not public defender)?
  43. Do you have any funny stories or memorable moments from your time working as a public defender that you can share with us?
  44. Any words of wisdom for those of us who might find ourselves in need of a public defender one day?
  45. Is there anything else we should know about working as a public defender that we didn’t cover here? 
  46. Can you walk me through your experience as a public defender? 
  47. How do you deal with clients who are unhappy with the outcome of their case? 
  48. How do you deal with the stress of your job? 
  49. What are some of the most challenging aspects of your job? 
  50. Can you tell me about a time when you had to give bad news to a client? 
  51. Can you tell me about a time when you were able to help somebody in a difficult situation? 
  52. What motivates you to keep doing this type of work? 
  53. How have you seen the criminal justice system change over the years? 
  54. What do you think could be done to improve the criminal justice system? 
  55. Do you think that defendants are always treated fairly in court? 
  56. Do you think that race and ethnicity play a role in how defendants are treated in court? 
  57. How do cultural competency and bias training help public defenders in their work? 
  58. What should I do if I am ever arrested or charged with a crime? 
  59. What should I expect if I go to trial? 
  60. How can I support public defenders and their work? 
  61. Can you recommend any books or movies about public defenders or criminal justice reform for me to check out? 
  62. What is the nature of my charges?
  63. What are the potential penalties?
  64. How long will the entire process take?
  65. What are the likely consequences of pleading guilty?
  66. Can I get released on bail?
  67. Should I take a polygraph test?
  68. Will my Prior criminal history be held against me?
  69. Is there any chance of getting the charges dismissed?
  70. How can I impeach the credibility of witnesses against me?
  71. What are the prosecutor’s strengths and weaknesses?
  72. How can I Challenge illegal searches and seizures?
  73. Should I take a deal from the prosecutor?
  74. How do I file an appeal if I’m convicted?
  75. What are my rights during police questioning?
  76. Do I have any constitutional rights that have been violated?

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a public defender do?

Public defenders are attorneys appointed by the government to represent people who cannot afford their own legal representation. They work in both criminal and civil cases and are often found in courtrooms across the country. Public defenders are usually highly experienced attorneys who have dedicated their careers to helping people who may not be able to afford legal representation.

Is a public defender free?

Public defenders are usually free for those who cannot afford a lawyer. When a person is convicted of a crime and cannot afford an attorney, the court provides a public defender free of charge.


If you’re facing charges and need a public defender, don’t go into your first meeting blindfolded. Be prepared with a list of questions to ask your attorney so you know what to expect moving forward and can make informed decisions about your case.

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