Abstract

Most criminal defendants cannot afford to hire an attorney. To provide constitutionally mandated legal services, states commonly use either private court-appointed attorneys or a public defender organization. This paper investigates the relative efficacy of these two modes of indigent defense by comparing outcomes of co-defendants assigned to different types of attorneys within the same case. Using data from San Francisco, I show that in multiple defendant cases public defender assignment is plausibly as good as random. I find that public defenders reduce the probability of any prison sentence by 22% and the length of prison sentences by 10%.

This content is only available as a PDF.

Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview