Differences between a public defender and private defense


Daniel Gobraeel
public defender, witness in court
Photographer: Carl Johan Erikson

If you’re suspected of a crime in Sweden, you need a lawyer to defend you. Someone who’s familiar with Swedish law, who will guide you through the legal process and who can explain to you what your options are in the process. Sometimes you may need to hire a lawyer to represent you in court. However, sometimes you could also be entitled to a court-appointed public defender.

Only lawyers who are members of the Swedish Bar Association are allowed to work as public defenders in Sweden. The difference between a lawyer who’s a member and one who’s not is the obligation to follow the Swedish Bar Associations ethical rules.

A common misunderstanding is that lawyers who are not members lack the experience, and thus the expertise members have. The expertise of your defense depends on the cases they’ve worked with and amount of time they’ve spent on them. In other words, a lawyer who’s not a member of the Bar Association but who has worked on criminal cases for several years may have more experience and expertise as a defense attorney than a lawyer is a member but who has mainly worked on immigration cases. Therefore, it’s important that you consider your defenders previous experience rather than if they’re a member or not.

When you have the right to a public defender

You always have the right to a public defender if:

  • you’re arrested or detained.
  • you’re suspected of a crime punishable by imprisonment for at least six months.

Important to note here is that in both cases you must ask for a public defender. You won’t get one automatically. If you don’t qualify for a public defender, you can still ask for one. Sometimes you could be granted one anyway if the court deems there’s special need for it.

When you want a public defender, you have to contact the prosecutor handling your case. The prosecutor will take it up with the court. Depending on what you’re suspected of, you’ll then be given a public defender straight away or the court will review your case to determine if the need for one exists. If your case has already been prosecuted, you can instead go directly to the court and ask for a public defender.

What a public defender will cost you

A public defender is not completely free of charge. But the difference between a public and private defender is that the state will pay part of the public defender’s costs. How much they will pay and what you have to pay yourself differs from case to case. You’ll usually find out how much that is at the trial.

If you’re not satisfied with your public defender, you can ask to have them replaced. However, it’s not guaranteed that the court will approve this. Should they not, you can always choose to hire a private defender instead.

How to hire a private defender

A private defender is simply a lawyer that you hire yourself. Even if you have the right to a public defender, you can always choose to hire a private one instead. The costs of a private defender differs between different law firms. Sometimes the firm will charge you by the hour and give you an estimate in advance of how many hours your case may take. But there is a risk that the final cost will be higher than what they’ve estimated. At Kliently, we know that a legal process is a great stress for all parties. That’s why we give our clients a quote in advance with a fixed cost for the entire case. If you’re accused of a crime but are acquitted, you can request compensation from the court for the costs you incurred when you hired your private defense attorney.

If you’re suspected of a crime and need to hire a private defense attorney, you can always turn to us at Kliently. Start by booking a video meeting with one of our lawyers in the Kliently app and we will advise you on what options you have and what we recommend for you.

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