First, if you can afford to hire an attorney, you do not qualify for the services of the Public Defender and should hire your own lawyer. The Public Defender's Office only represents people who cannot afford to hire an attorney. If you really can't afford to hire an attorney, but want to borrow the money from family or friends because you believe you have a better chance with a private attorney, consider the following. Public defenders have long suffered from a public perception as second rate lawyers who couldn't get a "real" job and had to "settle" for working for starvation wages as a deputy public defender. We also suffer from the belief by some that we don't really work hard for our clients.
These are wholly untrue stereotypes. The attorneys who choose to work as deputy public defenders are some of the brightest, best educated, and most dedicated lawyers there are. The Nevada County Public Defender's Office is made up of people who want to practice nothing but criminal law. They don't do divorces or "chase ambulances" or write wills. They come from the finest law schools in the country. While almost all of them could earn more money if that was the most important thing to them, they still get paid pretty well. The salary range is commensurate with the District Attorney's office.
The majority of our lawyers never wanted to practice any other kind of law, and have dedicated their careers to criminal defense work, and being deputy public defenders, because they believe in what they do and like doing it. Because our lawyers don't have to worry about anything but representing their clients, they generally do it very well. They are in court nearly every day. They know all the "ins and outs" of the courts in which they practice. They also try more jury trials in a year than most lawyers try in a lifetime. They know what a case is worth in a settlement. More than 95% of all criminal cases settle before trial, nationwide. Public defenders like trying cases, they don't have to be concerned with the financial implications that going to trial may involve for a retained attorney and his or her client. So, if your deputy public defender recommends a plea bargain, it is because he or she honestly believes it is in your best interest to settle the case, not because financial concerns require it.