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How Much Does a Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Cost?



If you live in the Boston area and have been arrested, or are under investigation for a crime, you need to hire an attorney as soon as possible. A Boston criminal defense attorney can represent you in the legal system, protect your rights and make sure you are treated fairly by the justice system.

Unless you’ve hired a Boston criminal defense attorney before, the cost may be hard to understand. This article explains some common methods of payment, and will give you some things to consider before hiring an attorney.

You may have heard that the court provides a public defender—a defense attorney—at no cost. This is true if you can’t afford an attorney on your own. The court will determine if you qualify for a public defender; if you don’t, you will need to find a qualified Boston criminal defense attorney to handle your case.

Boston criminal attorneys may charge a flat fee or by the hour. These methods are known as fee arrangements. No matter which arrangement is used, the cost of your defense is affected by:

  • The attorney’s billing rate
  • The complexity and length of the case
  • The attorney’s expenses for travel, court fees and other items

The billing rate will vary by attorney location, experience and reputation. For example, a Back Bay defense attorney may have a higher rate than one in Allston or Dorchester. You’ll also pay more for attorneys with long experience in Boston criminal defense, but it may be worth the price for their knowledge and skill.

Hiring a Boston Criminal Defense Attorney by the Hour

You’re probably familiar with the basics of an hourly fee arrangement. The attorney is paid a certain amount for every hour spent on your case. There are variables, however, that can make a difference in the total cost.

Under the hourly arrangement, Boston criminal attorneys bill in increments. An increment is a part of an hour, and the most common increments are 6 and 15 minutes. The increment can significantly change the cost of your defense. For example, an attorney writes a letter. It takes six minutes, and his hourly rate is $100. If the increment is six minutes long, you’ll pay $10 for the letter, but the same letter will cost you $25 if the increment is 15 minutes. By the end of your defense, these small differences can add up to a much larger bill.

Usually, an hourly attorney requires a deposit, called a retainer fee, at the start of the case. After that, the attorney will bill monthly.

Legal expenses are not included in the hourly fee and will be charged separately. These expenses may include the costs of:

  • Court fees
  • Travel
  • Photocopies and faxes
  • Paralegals and investigators
  • Expert witnesses
  • Other expenses as required

Flat Fee Arrangements in Boston Criminal Defense

Sometimes, Boston criminal attorneys charge a flat fee, meaning the entire defense is charged at one price. The price usually does not include expenses, which are billed separately.

This fee arrangement is most often used in simpler cases, where the charges are common and the defense is straightforward. The entire amount is usually due immediately although some attorneys accept credit cards or have payment plans.

The flat fee is predictable and easy to understand, but be sure to ask:

  • What is included in the fee, and what is additional
  • If the fee is refundable if you decide to change attorneys
  • If the fee will change if your case becomes different or larger than expected

Understanding the Cost of Boston Criminal Attorneys

Before you hire a Boston criminal defense attorney, be sure you understand the fee structure. Understand if the attorney charges a flat rate or hourly, what expenses you will pay, and the payment options and terms. If you are considering an attorney with an hourly fee, also get an estimate of the total cost of your defense.