Things to Consider When Hiring Criminal Lawyers
As you interview criminal lawyers looking for one to hire, you have many considerations. Which one has the skills and experience you need? Do you agree with the strategy they propose? Do they deserve your confidence?
This article discusses all of those considerations in more detail.
Before hiring a criminal defense lawyer, you should meet the attorney to discuss the legal charges against you. The purpose of this meeting is to:
- Figure out whether you want to hire this attorney
- Hear about the lawyers background and experience
- Discuss the charges against you and your options
Evaluating Criminal Attorneys
Just because attorneys describe themselves as "criminal lawyers" or "assault defense specialists" does not necessarily mean they have the experience you need. In some but not all states, attorneys have to meet certain criteria before they can call themselves "specialists". You need to dig deeper than the surface of a legal advertisement.
Its in your best interest to look for a criminal defense attorney who has experience handling charges like your own. Consider asking:
- How long has the attorney represented clients facing criminal charges?
- How often does he or she defend clients with similar charges to your own?
- How often does the attorney appear at the courthouse where your case will be heard?
- Does the lawyer know the prosecuting attorney who will try to prove you guilty? Have they worked opposite each other before? If asked to describe the criminal defense attorney, what would the prosecutor say?
- If the lawyer accepts other kinds of cases, how much of his or her caseload is criminal defense?
Criminal Defense Strategy
When you meet, listen carefully to the questions the lawyer asks. Dont give your side of the story until the lawyer asks for it. Allow the lawyer to systematically take you through the events that led to your arrest. Some criminal lawyers will want to understand what the prosecution is alleging before they hear your version of what happened.
Unless the charges are dropped, youre probably facing one of three options:
- Plead guilty and face sentencing
- Try for a plea agreement in which you would plead guilty to a lesser charge, possibly leading to a lighter sentence
- Plead not guilty and go to trial
Discuss each of these options and the consequences that would result.
Any strategy the lawyers offer will be unique to your case: the charges filed against you and the specific evidence the prosecutor is using as a base for those charges. As the attorneys talk about various strategies, ask yourself if you're comfortable with their approach, if they sound reasonable, and if they will get results.
Criminal Defense Legal Fees
Whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges, you need a lawyer fast. You probably dont have time to compare prices. However, you should still understand how a criminal lawyer charges for his or her time.
Most criminal lawyers charge an hourly fee or a flat fee. As it sounds, a lawyer who asks for an hourly fee charges for the actual time he or she works on your case. And a lawyer who charges a flat fee has one price for representing you.
However, not all legal services are included in these rates. The cost of photocopying, use of a paralegal, and hiring an investigator are just some of the expenses that will be charged separately. Youll want to be clear what is and is not included in the lawyers fee.
Trust, Confidence & Judgment
Beyond a lawyers resume, there is another dimension to deciding whether an attorney is the right one for you. Its how you feel about the attorney. You may be working with this attorney for a while, so you want someone you can trust who shows good judgment and offers sound advice.
At your first meeting with a criminal lawyer, ask yourself a few questions to see if this attorney has the subjective qualities youre looking for. Consider:
- Is this lawyer patient when I ask questions?
- Does this lawyer explain terms and aspects of the court system I do not understand?
- Do I feel as if this lawyer is answering my all of my questions?
- Do I feel comfortable with this attorney?
Especially if this is the first time youre facing criminal charges, you will need someone who is patient, who takes the time answer your questions and to explain concepts you do not understand. And regardless of your number of trips to the courthouse, you need someone in whom you can feel confident.
To determine whether this is the attorney you want to hire, consider whether the attorney has the experience, strategy, legal fees, and trustworthiness you require in a criminal defense lawyer. If the lawyer has it all, you have found your lawyer.