GENERAL INFORMATION Re: APPOINTED vs. RETAINED/HIRED COUNSEL IN CRIMINAL CASES
Any attorney who accepts appointments in any type of case is expected to adhere to the same standards as they would if they were hired. And in many cases there are advantages to having a court-appointed attorney. However, it is a common question to ask whether an appointed attorney will do the same quality job compared to if they were hired.
Each county in Texas adopts an "Indigent Defense Plan," which sets out standards for attorneys to be appointed to different types of cases, as well as setting out what the pay rate for each type of appointment is. (Some counties have public defender offices, but this is fairly rare)
The Indigent Defense Plan for Midland County is available here: https://www.co.midland.tx.us/departments/dcourts/forms/october%2020,%202017%20midland%20county%20indigent%20defense%20plan%20(signed).pdf
The Indigent Defense Plan for Ector County is available here: http://tidc.tamu.edu/IDPlan/ViewPlan.aspx?PlanID=309 and the Ector County Fee Schedule is available here: http://tidc.tamu.edu/IDPlanDocuments/Ector/Ector%20District%20and%20County%20Court%20Attorney%20Fee%20Schedule.pdf
Both Counties set the maximum hourly rate at $150 per hour. Midland County sets the fixed fee for a plea to a State Jail or Third Degree Felony at $750 -- meaning they expect these cases to take 5 hours at most. Ector County sets the fee for the same types of cases at $600 -- meaning they expect 4 hours of work per case. Each County pays even less for a dismissal -- neither explicitly taking into account whether the dismissal had anything to do with work done by the Defense Attorney.
In reality, 4-5 hours can easily be spent reviewing discovery and attending routine pre-trial hearings, even in a case that results in a plea agreement. In cases where trial preparation or motion hearings are necessary (such as bond reduction motions; motions to suppress, etc. . . ), this amount of time is easily surpassed, and is not usually up to the Defense Attorney to decide, but is dictated by the nature of the case, the amount of discovery, the Court the case is filed in, and the Prosecutor assigned to the case.