How to Hire a Criminal Attorney
If youve just been arrested, you need to find a criminal attorney, and you dont have time to waste. But if youve never needed a lawyer before, you may not know where to find one. This article will help.
If you cannot afford an attorney, the court may appoint one for you at your arraignment. Each state-and sometimes each judge-will have a different definition of what it means to be able to afford a lawyer. You can ask the court if you qualify at your next appearance.
If the court approves your request, you must take the attorney assigned to you. You do not get to pick and choose among public defenders.
Many criminal defendants who do not qualify for a public defender will want to hire a private criminal defense attorney because they do not want to face the criminal justice system alone. Whether you are facing state or federal criminal charges, if you want a lawyer, this article will guide you through the process of finding and hiring one.
Finding a Criminal Attorney
There are several ways to find a criminal lawyer to represent you.
Ask people you know, such as your friends, family members, and business colleagues if theyve ever hired a criminal defense attorney. Would they recommend their attorney? Would they hire their lawyer again, if necessary? These personal recommendations can be helpful.
If you feel reluctant to talk about your criminal charges, Attorneys.com offers a service that can connect you with a criminal attorney in your area. Just call us at 1-877-913-7222 or fill out the short form on this web site. After you answer a few questions, we will forward the name and contact information for at least one criminal defense attorney in your area.
You may contact the lawyer directly, or he or she will follow up with you within two business days.< h3>Preparing to Meet with a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Now that you have the name of at least one criminal defense lawyer, you are ready to take the next step: meeting him or her. When you call to book the appointment, ask if there is any paperwork the lawyer wants you to complete. Some criminal lawyers will ask you to fill out a questionnaire prior to meeting.
You can accomplish several important goals at a first meeting with a criminal attorney. You can hear about your options and discuss strategy. You can learn about the lawyers background to make sure he or she has experience with the kinds of charges youre facing. For example, if youve been accused of misdemeanor driving under the influence, you dont need a lawyer who usually handles felony cases, such as murder, rape, or kidnapping. And, most importantly, at your first meeting with a criminal attorney you can determine whether this is the lawyer you want to hire.
You should ask if the lawyer needs you to bring any specific documents to the meeting. These might include:
- Any paperwork you received from the court showing the charges against you and your next court date
- Your bail papers
- Any paperwork the police gave you
- A copy of the police report, if possible
The lawyer will also want a list of other people involved in your case. Include witnesses, victims, and co-defendants. The lawyer needs the names to ensure his or her firm has no relationship with anyone else in the case. If there is a prior relationship, the lawyer may be unable to represent you because of a conflict of interest.
Now that youve organized your paperwork, its time to organize your thoughts. Think of questions youd like to ask the criminal defense attorney. The purpose of this meeting is to decide whether to hire the lawyer, so ask questions that will help you make this decision. Some good areas to explore include:
- Whether and how much experience the lawyer has representing clients facing similar charges
- How much experience the attorney has in the courthouse where your case will be heard
- Whether the attorney is familiar with the prosecutor assigned to your case
- Your legal options and the lawyer's proposed strategy for handling your case
- How much you can expect to spend in legal fees and expenses
If you have any specific needs of an attorney, such as someone who speaks another language, mention this at your first meeting to find out if the attorney can accommodate you.
Meeting with a Criminal Attorney
Bring your initial consultation the list of questions so you dont forget to ask any of them. Also bring some writing materials, so you can take notes during the meeting.
The lawyer will probably begin the meeting by asking you questions about the circumstances of your case. All lawyers are bound by strict confidentiality rules that prevent them from revealing anything you say, so you can speak freely. Even if you end up hiring another attorney, your conversations with any criminal lawyer will be kept confidential.
Answer the lawyer's questions honestly and thoroughly.
Once the lawyer has finished asking you questions, you can question him or her.
Selecting a Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you didn't take notes during your meeting, take some time immediately following the meeting to record your impressions. Also, think about whether the criminal lawyer is right for your case. Does the attorney meet your requirements? Ask yourself:
- Does this lawyer have experience with the kind of charges Im facing?
- Does the lawyer offer good advice? Does he or she have a sound strategy for my case?
- Are the legal fees fair?
- Do I feel comfortable with this attorney?
The answers to these questions should help you determine whether you have found the criminal defense attorney to represent you. Depending on the nature of your case, you may need to hire a lawyer quickly, but you also need the best lawyer for your case. If youre torn between a couple of attorneys, ask them to put you in touch with former clients. Would the client recommend the lawyer? What did the client like and dislike about the attorney? This feedback can be invaluable.
Once you have hired your attorney, you are ready to face the rest of the criminal process.