How to Hire an Illinois Criminal Attorney
If youve been arrested, the quicker you find an Illinois criminal attorney, the better. You should not try to navigate the criminal justice system by yourself.
But if youve never hired a lawyer before, you may not know how to find an Illinois criminal defense attorney. This article can help.
Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony violation of Illinois criminal law, if you cannot afford one, you may have a public defender represent you. When you are in jail or at your first court appearance, you may request a public defender. You need to fill out some paperwork regarding your finances. It is up to the judge to decide whether you qualify.
If the judge approves a public defender for you, you do not get a say in who will represent you. You must accept the one assigned to you.
If you do not qualify for a public defender or do not like the public defender assigned to your case, you should hire a private Illinois criminal defense attorney.
Finding a Illinois Criminal Attorney
You have several ways to find an Illinois criminal defense lawyer. You can ask your friends, family members, and work colleagues if they have ever hired a criminal defense lawyer. If they have, youll want to get some details about the lawyer, and, most importantly, whether they would recommend their lawyer.
If youd rather not talk about your arrest with people you know, you have another option right in front of you. Attorneys.com offers a service that can connect you to an Illinois criminal defense lawyer near you.
Whether you are in Chicago, Naperville, Bloomington, or any other part of Illinois, just call 1-877-913-7222 or complete the short form on this web site. When you have answered a few questions, well forward the name and contact information for at least one Illinois criminal defense attorney near you.
You may call the lawyer yourself, or he or she will get back to you within a few days.
Preparing to Meet an Illinois Criminal Defense Lawyer
Before you meet with an Illinois criminal defense attorney, you should take a moment to consider what it is that you want in a lawyer. You probably want a lawyer who:
- Has extensive experience with Illinois criminal law
- Has represented clients facing charges similar to your own
- Offers good advice
- Suggests a strategy you believe will get you the results you want
- Has a fair legal fee
- Is someone you can see yourself working with for several months
Now that you know what it is youre looking for in an Illinois criminal attorney, you will recognize the one for you when you meet.
Meeting with the attorneys on your list is your next step. Many Illinois criminal lawyers are willing to talk with you briefly. It gives you a chance to size each other up. Your most important goal for this meeting is to determine whether this is the lawyer you want to hire.
Based on the qualities you defined above, you should write out a list of questions you want to ask. Make sure you bring the list with you, so you dont forget anything. Its also a good idea to bring some writing material, so you can record the answers and any impressions you have.
So that you can make the most of your time at a first meeting, gather some documents together to show the attorney, such as:
- Your bail papers
- The police report, if possible
- Any other paperwork from the police, such as an inventory list of a search the police conducted on you
- Any paperwork you have from the court stating the charges against you and your next court date
Some attorneys may ask you to fill out a questionnaire ahead of the meeting. If you receive one, fill it out completely and make sure it arrives at the law office before you do.
Finally, the lawyer would appreciate it if you wrote out a list of all the people connected to your case. It should include victims, witnesses, and co-defendants. If the attorney or anyone else from his or her firm has represented anyone on the list, there is a conflict of interest. This means the attorney may not be able to take your case.
Meeting with an Illinois Criminal Attorney
As you answer the Illinois criminal attorneys questions, do not withhold any information. Even if you decide to hire a different attorney, everything you say at a first meeting will be kept confidential. Illinois criminal defense lawyers are bound by strict rules that prevent them from disclosing anything they learn at a first meeting.
You should let the attorney ask his or her questions first. Your time may be limited, and its important that the lawyer fully understand the charges youre facing and the evidence against you.
When its your turn, refer to your list of questions. Remember what youre looking for in an ideal attorney. You need to know how this attorney measures up.
If you have any special needs, make them known at the first meeting. For example, you may need to restrict communication to texts and emails during the day, or maybe you need weekend appointments. Ask the lawyer if he or she can accommodate you.
Hiring an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney
When you have finished interviewing all the Illinois criminal defense attorneys on your list, it is time to choose one. If you only met with one but the attorney had all the qualities you defined above, the decision is obvious.
If, however, you have several worthy candidates, ask them for the names and contact information of former clients. Then call them to find out what working with these attorneys was really like. Did the strategies they propose work? Were they tough negotiators? Did they seem to have a good reputation among opposing counsel?
If youre still undecided, go back to your list of desired qualities. Ask yourself:
- Which attorney had the most experience with Illinois criminal law?
- Which attorney had the most experience in representing clients facing similar charges to your own?
- Who proposed the strategy you liked best?
- Whose legal fees seemed reasonable?
- With whom were you most comfortable?
After answering those questions, the best choice in an Illinois criminal defense attorney should be clear. Once you hire him or her, youre ready to face the next step of the judicial process.