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How Much Does a New York City Criminal Defense Attorney Cost?


If you have been accused of a crime in New York, you need to find the right lawyer to represent you. You are probably wondering how much a New York criminal defense lawyer costs. This article will help you understand how lawyers bill for their time.

Some lawyers bill by the hour and some have a flat rate. When you meet with different criminal lawyers in New York, be sure to ask them specifically how and what they charge.

Hourly Billing Rates

In a criminal defense case, you will probably talk to lawyers who bill by the hour. In this type of situation, a lawyer charges an hourly rate for the actual amount of time they work on a case. There are many different factors that can impact the hourly rate that New York criminal attorneys charge.

Experience and education are major factors. Someone who graduated from Columbia Law School and has been representing New Yorkers in criminal defense cases for decades will charge more than someone who has just graduated from a less-competitive law school.

Location and overhead make a difference, too. A lawyer with fancy offices in Manhattan will charge more than someone who has a small office on Staten Island.

Reputation is another consideration. New York criminal defense attorneys with a proven record may charge more than those who may not necessarily focus on your area of the law. Keep in mind, though, that lawyers who charge a higher hourly rate may actually be cheaper in the long run, if they can work faster than less experienced attorneys.

Typically, lawyers bill in six- or 15-minute increments. If a lawyer bills in six-minute increments and you talk to your lawyer for four minutes on the phone, he will charge you for six. If you talk for seven minutes, you will be charged for 12. Remember that your lawyer will charge you every time he works on your case, whether that is answering an e-mail or calling you back.

You will also pay for your lawyer’s expenses, such as travel costs if he has to leave the city to interview potential witnesses for your case.

A New York criminal defense attorney will probably ask for a retainer, or up-front deposit. Once you hire your lawyer, expect to be billed regularly, usually every month.

Flat-Fee Billing

In some situations, lawyers will charge a flat fee. This is usually done for very predictable types of cases, such as bankruptcies. Criminal cases may be less predictable, so be sure to ask the New York criminal attorneys you meet with if they would work on a flat-fee basis. If your attorney offers a flat fee, be sure to see whether court costs are included and when the fee has to be paid.

You may have heard of contingency fees, where lawyers will take a case for free and then take a percentage of any payout as their fee. This is only used in cases that involve potential awards or settlements, so a lawyer will not take a New York criminal defense case on a contingency basis.

Choosing the Right New York City Criminal Defense Attorney

Hourly rates and flat-fee rates both have advantages and disadvantages. When paying an hourly rate, the costs can get very high if the case drags on, but they can be low if your case is quickly resolved. Since the total costs can be unpredictable, you may need to set a budget before you hire the lawyer.

Flat fees are predictable, but you may need to pay up front. If prosecutors decide to bring additional charges, your lawyer may charge more.

You need to have an honest discussion with every lawyer you interview about costs. You should specifically ask what type of fee they charge and what that fee is. Be sure to ask about extra expenses that may be involved. Then, ask for an estimated total cost. Be sure you understand how and when your lawyer expects to be paid.

You may be able to negotiate legal fees, but you have to do this before you hire your lawyer.

Once you find out how much your New York criminal attorney will charge, you can make a better decision when hiring the right lawyer to represent you.