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How Much Do Criminal Attorneys Cost
If you have been arrested, you need to talk to a criminal defense lawyer sooner rather than later. If youve never hired a lawyer before you may not know how much one costs. This article will explain how criminal attorneys charge for their time.
Several variables can impact how much you pay a criminal attorney, including:
- The billing method the lawyer uses
- The lawyers billing rate
- Whether you plead guilty, take a plea agreement, or go to trial
- The amount of related legal expenses you will have to pay
How a criminal lawyer charges for his or her time is as important as how much a lawyer charges. In general, criminal attorneys use one of two billing methods: an hourly fee or a flat fee.
Busier lawyers with a solid reputation may charge more. However, if youve been charged with something serious, such as felony theft or vehicular manslaughter, it may be worth paying for that experience.
In addition to the criminal attorney's fees, you may have to pay for related legal expenses, such as:
- A paralegals time
- An investigators time
- The fee charged by an expert witness
- Travel-related expenses
Depending on the state, you may have to pay additional fees if found guilty. For example, North Carolina has criminal court fees for everything from phone systems to time spent in jail.
Hiring Criminal Attorneys by the Hour
Several factors affect a lawyers hourly fee. These include:
- The lawyers experience and knowledge of state and federal crime law
- The going rate in the area
- The complexity of the charges against you
- The cost of overhead to run the firm or office
When hiring a criminal attorney by the hour, you may also be asked to pay a retainer fee. The retainer is similar to a down payment. You will then receive monthly bills that your lawyer will expect you to pay promptly.
Criminal lawyers who charge by the hour may break up the hour into 15-minute or 6-minute increments. Its a small difference with a big impact. For example, say your lawyer takes 5 minutes writing an email to you. The lawyer who charges $200 an hour in 15-minute increments would charge you $50 for that time, while a lawyer who charges the same but in 6-minute increments would only charge you $20.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney for a Flat Fee
Criminal lawyers sometimes prefer to charge a flat fee because they can ask for the money to be paid up front. How you pay for your legal representation may vary from lawyer to lawyer. Ask if credit cards and other financing options are available. Also, ask if you have to pay in one lump sum or if you can break it into smaller payments.
If you hire an attorney on a flat fee, make sure you know what is included in the price and what is not. Many times, for example, court fees are not included in a flat fee rate.
In addition, flat fees are rarely refundable. This means if you decide to switch attorneys, you may not get your money back. If you have any doubts, resolve them before hiring an attorney.
To get the details about the flat fee, consider asking:
- Is the flat fee refundable?
- What additional expenses do you expect me to pay?
- What kind of payment plans do you offer?
- Is it possible to extend the payments beyond the time it takes to wrap up my case?
Rates forcriminal attorneys tend to be fairly competitive. You can try to negotiate fees, but any negotiation must take place before you hire the attorney. Once you have hired a lawyer, it is too late to change the fee or billing method.
You need to ask a lot of questions about legal fees before hiring a criminal attorney. Here are some questions that should help:
- Do you charge by the hour or use a flat fee?
- What does your fee cover? What is not included?
- What other expenses will I have to pay on top of your fee? Can you give me an estimate for them?
- Does your fee have room for negotiation?
How and when do you expect payment?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you will know how much it costs to hire a criminal defense lawyer.