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How Much Does a Criminal Law Attorney Charge

How Much Does a Criminal Law Attorney Charge?

If you never hired a criminal law attorney before, you may not know how much they charge. Criminal lawyers handle billing a little differently from other attorneys. So if youre facing criminal charges, youre going to want to know what to expect. This article can help.

You may be more familiar with lawyers who help clients file personal injury lawsuits. They often charge what is called a contingency fee. That is, the lawyers dont require any money from their clients until they collect on their lawsuit. Then, the lawyers take a percentage of their clients' award as compensation. You may see also this type of billing arrangement with lawyers who file workers' compensation, traffic accident, or medical malpractice lawsuits.

Criminal law attorneys, on the other hand, do not work on contingency. They typically use one of two billing methods: an hourly fee or a flat fee. They function just the way they sound. That is, a lawyer who charges an hourly fee is paid by the hour for the actual time he or she works on the case. A lawyer who wants a flat fee has one price to cover all of the hours the lawyer works on a case.

No matter which billing method your criminal attorney uses, you will probably have to pay additional expenses beyond the legal fees. Some of these expenses include:

  • The fee charged by an expert witness
  • A paralegal's time
  • An investigator's time
  • Photocopying
  • Travel expenses

On top of these fees, you may also have to pay various court fees if you are found guilty. For example, North Carolina's criminal court fees require you to pay for everything from a criminal record check to time spent in jail.

How much your total legal bill will be is influenced by several factors. The billing method, for one, will play a big role in determining your final total. A flat fee is the same no matter how long it takes to wrap up your case. On the other hand, the hourly fees will add up if your case goes to trial or if you decide to appeal. Even if you are acquitted, or found not guilty, of a felony charge, you may want an expungement to erase the charges and/or arrest from your record. Your criminal law attorney will surely bill you for those hours.

Rates for criminal law attorneys are fairly competitive, but depending on your circumstances, you may not have the time to shop around. You can try to negotiate a smaller fee but only before you hire a lawyer. Once you have hired a lawyer, it is too late to change the fee or billing method.

Hiring a Criminal Law Attorney by the Hour

A criminal justice lawyers hourly rate is influenced by several factors, including:

  • How much experience he or she has
  • How complex are the charges against you
  • The going rate in your area
  • The firms reputation in the legal community
  • The cost of overhead to run the firm or office

If you hire a criminal defense lawyer by the hour, you will probably have to pay a retainer fee, which acts as a down payment. Most lawyers who bill hourly expect monthly payments.

Lawyers divide their hourly rates into either 15-minute or 6-minute increments. That may seem like a small difference, but its really not. Take as an example a 5-minute phone conversation. A lawyer who charges $200 an hour in 15-minute increments will want $50 for that conversation. A lawyer who divides the hour into 6-minute increments would only charge you $20.

Here are some questions to ask a lawyer who charges by the hour:

  • What is your rate?
  • Do you break the hour into 15-minute increments or 6-minute increments?
  • Do you require a retainer fee? How much is it?
  • What type of payments do you accept?
  • How often will I need to pay you?

Hiring a Criminal Attorney for a Flat Fee

Some criminal lawyers prefer to charge a flat fee for predictable types of work. Acceptable forms of payment will vary from lawyer to lawyer. When payment is due will also vary depending on the lawyer.

If you hire a lawyer on a flat fee, make sure you know what is included in the price. For example, often court fees will not be included in a flat fee.

In addition, flat fees are rarely refundable. This means that if you want to switch criminal defense attorneys midway through your case, you may not get your money back. If you want the ability to change attorneys, you would be better off looking for attorneys who charge an hourly fee.

Here are some questions that should help you understand how a flat fee works:

  • How much is your flat fee?
  • What is included in that fee?
  • What is not included in that fee?
  • How much will I pay in other expenses outside of the flat fee?
  • What are my payment options? Can I use a credit card?
  • Can I break the flat fee into payments? When would they be due?
  • Is your flat fee refundable?

The Cost of Hiring a Criminal Attorney

In your search for a criminal law attorney, you should interview at least one before you make a hiring decision. During the interview, be sure to ask the above questions according to the legal fee the attorney prefers. When you get the answers to your questions, youll know exactly how much it costs to hire a criminal law attorney.