How Much Does a Missouri Criminal Lawyer Cost?
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you should hire a Missouri criminal lawyer as soon as possible. The prosecution will be working hard for a conviction, and you need to present a strong defense.
You’ve probably realized that you need an attorney, but may not know if you can afford to hire one. This article will help you understand how a Missouri criminal defense attorney gets paid and what you should know about legal fees before you hire an attorney.
Using a Public Defender as Your Missouri Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have very little money, the court may provide a public defender for you. A public defender is a Missouri criminal defense attorney who works for the state, and one is assigned to a defendant who cannot afford to hire an attorney on his own.
If you believe you qualify, you can request a public defender. You must prove to the court that you can’t afford a Missouri criminal lawyer, and the judge will decide if you are eligible. If you are denied a public defender or know you will not qualify, you should start looking for Missouri defense attorneys immediately.
How a Missouri Criminal Lawyer Charges
Missouri defense attorneys charge in one of two ways: an hourly rate or a flat fee.
The Hourly Rate
Usually, a Missouri criminal defense attorney bills by the hour. The attorney is paid a certain amount for each hour he spends working on your case.
Each hour is divided into increments, or parts of an hour. The most common are 6 minutes, with 10 increments per hour, and 15 minutes, with four increments per hour.
For example, imagine that an attorney with a rate of $100 per hour writes a letter to the court for you. The letter takes him six minutes to write. If the lawyer uses a 6-minute increment, the letter costs you one-tenth of the hourly rate, or $10. If the lawyer uses a 15-minute increment, the same letter costs you one-fourth of the hourly rate, or $25.
It’s easy to see that a Missouri criminal lawyer with a 15-minute increment will be more expensive as your case progresses, but the cost of your defense also depends on the attorney’s hourly rate.
Missouri defense attorneys charge different hourly rates. The rate depends on several things, including:
- The experience of the attorney
- The attorney’s reputation with judges, prosecutors and the police
- The location of the attorney’s offices
An experienced Missouri criminal defense attorney with a strong reputation will charge more per hour. An attorney with offices in downtown St. Louis may also charge more than an attorney in Jefferson City.
Although it may seem that an experienced Missouri criminal lawyer costs more, it may not work out that way. The lawyer may be more efficient and effective in your defense, and may complete the same amount of work as another attorney in less time.
You may also need to pay a deposit, called a retainer, before the lawyer starts work. You will likely receive a monthly bill as your defense progresses.
Costs and expenses, like travel and photocopies, are usually not included in the hourly rate.
The Flat Fee
A Missouri criminal lawyer may charge a flat fee for simple or routine defenses. This fee is a one-time charge that is paid at the beginning of your case. You will agree with the attorney in advance on the amount of the fee and what is included.
Flat fees are normally restricted to one narrow defense, and if your case becomes larger or takes more work, you may need to pay extra. The fee is also typically not refundable, so if you decide to change lawyers or stop your defense, you will not get a refund. Costs and expenses are normally not included in the flat fee, but you should check with your lawyer.
Questions to Ask About Fees
Before you hire an attorney, make sure you are clear on the fee arrangement. Some important topics to discuss are:
- The type of fee charged
- The amount of the hourly rate or flat fee
- The hourly increment
- If costs and expenses are extra or included
- The estimated total cost of your defense
- What forms of payment are accepted
- If the lawyer offers payment terms
Legal fees are an important part of choosing an attorney. Make sure you understand the fee structure before you commit to a Missouri criminal defense attorney.