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How to Hire a California Criminal Defense Attorney



If you find yourself in trouble with the law, you will need a California criminal defense attorney. But if youve never needed a lawyer before, you may not know how to go about finding one. This article can help.

Its important that you dont hire just any attorney but the right one for you and your case. It may be helpful to define the qualities you want in a lawyer before you actually start your search. You probably want a lawyer with:

  • Experience, not only with California criminal law, but also with the kind of charges youre facing
  • A good working relationship with the prosecuting attorney in your case or at least others in the same office
  • A strategy for you that you believe will get you positive results
  • A fair legal fee

Now you have a measuring stick with which you can compare any lawyers you meet.

Finding a Public Defender in California

If you believe you cannot afford an attorney, you may ask the court to appoint one to you. To get the services of a local public defender, you will have to fill out an application. The application costs $25. It asks many questions about your financial situation.

In some locations in California, it is the local public defenders office that will determine if you meet the eligibility requirements for a public defender. In other places, the judge hearing your case will make that decision.

A public defender isnt necessarily free in California. Even if your application is approved, at the end of your case the judge will determine what, if anything, you should contribute to the cost of your defense. If at that time you have the financial means, you could end up paying for your public defender, just as if you hired a private lawyer.

Finding a Private California Criminal Defense Attorney

There are several ways to find a private criminal defense attorney in California. You can check with your friends, family members, and business colleagues to see if any of them have ever hired a criminal defense lawyer. If they have, youll want some feedback. Ask them:

  • Did your attorney work hard for you?
  • Did your attorney seem to have the respect of the prosecuting attorney?
  • What did you like about your attorney?
  • What did you not like?
  • Would you rehire your attorney if you ever needed a criminal defense attorney again?

If youre hesitant about discussing your legal problems with people you know, Attorneys.com can help. We offer a service that can connect you with a California criminal defense lawyer in your area.

Whether you are in Oakland or San Bernardino or any other city, call us at 1-877-913-7222. You can also fill out a short form on this web site. Upon answering a few questions, well forward the name of at least one California criminal defense attorney near you.

You may call the attorney yourself, or he or she will get back to you within two business days.

Preparing to Meet a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Just because you have a name of a California criminal lawyer or two does not mean you are ready to hire someone. Think back to the list of qualities you want your lawyer to have. You need to interview the lawyers before you hire one. You want to find the lawyer closest to your ideal.

Many criminal defense lawyers in California are willing to talk with you briefly. This is where you conduct your interview. The point of this meeting is to:

  • Discuss your legal options and any strategy the lawyer may have for you
  • Learn about the lawyers background
  • Most importantly, determine whether this one is the lawyer you want to hire

Before your meeting, you should come up with a list of questions youd like to ask the lawyer. Focus the questions on topics that will help you with your hiring decision, such as the lawyers background and experience with California criminal law-and specifically with the charges you are facing-and proposed strategies for you. Also ask how much the legal services will cost.

Along with your list of questions, you should bring pen and paper with you, so you can keep track of the answers and record any notes you want to remember.

The California criminal defense attorneys will also find it helpful if you also bring some other documents with you, including:

Your bail papers

  • The police report, if you have it
  • Any other paperwork the police gave you
  • Any documents from the court that spell out the charges against you and your next court date
  • In addition, to the best of your ability, make a list of the names of other people involved with your case. Include victims, witnesses, and co-defendants. The lawyers will need to know if they or anyone else at their firms has ever represented anyone on that list. If they have, they may decline to represent you because of a conflict of interest.

    Gather all these documents and make sure you bring them with you to your first meetings with California criminal defense lawyers.

    Meeting with California Criminal Lawyers

    Now that you have all the documents and questions you need, you are ready for your meeting. When you first arrive, let the attorney lead the conversation. The lawyer needs to understand clearly the charges you are facing and the evidence against you.

    Answer the lawyers questions directly and honestly. There is no need to hide any details. All criminal defense attorneys are bound by strict rules that prevent them from repeating anything they hear from a potential client. Even if you decide to hire a different attorney, all attorneys you meet with will keep your answers confidential.

    After the lawyer has asked his or her questions, it is your turn. Beyond the list of questions you have prepared, if you have any special needs, make your request at the first meeting. For example, you may prefer communication in Spanish or need weekend appointments. Find out if the lawyers can accommodate you at the first meeting.

    Selecting a California Criminal Defense Attorney

    When you have completed the last first interview with the attorneys on your list, its time to choose a California defense attorney. Think back to the qualities you defined above as being most important to you. Which attorney best matched your ideal?

    If you only met with one, but he or she had the qualities you are looking for, then your search is complete. If you interviewed several and have two or more worthy candidates, ask them for the names and contact information for some former clients. Call them, and ask the same questions above that you asked your friends, family members, or colleagues who have hired a criminal attorney in the past.

  • If several candidates still look great on paper, ask yourself some subjective questions. How did you feel about the attorneys? To find out, ask:

    • Which one seemed most trustworthy?
    • Which one earned your confidence the most?
    • With which one were you most comfortable?

    Factor in the objective criteria-experience and legal fees-and the best choice for you should emerge. Once you have hired your California criminal defense attorney, you are ready to face the charges against you.