What Questions Should I Ask a Criminal Lawyer Before Hiring?
Hiring a criminal lawyer is stressful. You want to find the best one for your case as soon as possible, and at the price you can afford.
You’re going to do a lot of research on defense attorneys and when you have finally compiled a list, you need to contact them.
First and foremost, does the defense attorney you’re interested in offer a free consultation? Usually most do, but in the case that they don’t, find one that does. The free consultation is the chance they give you to ask preliminary questions to determine if they are the right criminal defense attorney for you.
Who Will Be Handling My Case?
This is an important question to ask because it will let you know if your attorney will be the main person handling your case or if certain aspects of your case will be delegated to other lawyers, paralegals, law clerks, interns or associates. This often happens in bigger law firms since they have to deal with a lot of cases. Too many people handling your case can lead to miscommunication, miscalculations, and might cause you even more stress.
On the other hand, it helps to have whichever attorney or their team member working with you directly. You should ask to meet the team responsible for your case. Will you be speaking only with a secretary throughout your case or will you have access directly to the lawyer? Will the lawyer give you a cellphone number to contact?
Having direct and continuous contact with your defense attorney leads to the kind of passion and determination you want working for you. Often the first point of contact is the most important one. When you call, will you be speaking directly to the attorney, their assistant, or a salesperson?
You want a defense lawyer who takes a personal interest in your case and wants to get to know you so they can better understand your point of view and judgement. This will make you feel more comfortable when you need to discuss what is likely one of the most difficult situations you have ever face. It will help the attorney better understand the important details about your case.
How Long Have You Been Practicing Criminal Law?
There are many types of lawyers; divorce, personal injury, and bankruptcy are some to name.
Any lawyer with a law license can represent you in court. By asking how long they’ve been practicing criminal law, it allows you to determine if the lawyer’s main focus is criminal law and how much experience they have had in the field.
A criminal defense attorney’s website will only show defenses against criminal charges like misdemeanors or felonies whereas general practice lawyers might show experience in divorce, personal injury, bankruptcy, and maybe even criminal, but then you will know that criminal law is not their main expertise.
The defense attorney can also provide you with their educational and professional credentials like where they went to school, what they majored in, what year they graduated, and the law firms they have been and are associated with.
Only by having experience in the court defending against criminal charges under the pressure of the State will the lawyer have the confidence to fight, knowledge of what the judge and jury want to hear, and an idea of how the proceedings will go.
How Often Do Your Cases Go to Trial?
You want a lawyer who has criminal defense experience and a track record of success in court, rather than a lawyer who has only settled their cases through plea bargains. Depending on how far the court proceedings have gone, plea bargains can happen at any stage of the process, but you need an attorney who knows how to litigate and fight every issue in your case and present your case to a jury if you decide to go to trial based on the strength of your case.
You may have the option of taking a plea bargain offered by the State to resolve the case in some fashion rather than proceed to trial. There is no constitutional right to a plea agreement. Your attorney will talk to you about the strengths and the weaknesses of your case, the likelihood of success at trial or how the state would attempt to prove their case, whether there are any constitutional issues, and whether it could be in your interest to accept an offer. The decision to take a plea offer is entirely your own. But it is important to find a criminal defense attorney who will review everything with you, discuss it with you in detail, and even include your family in the analysis and discussions so that they can help you make an informed decision about your future.
If you know your case needs an aggressive lawyer with experience in court, do not hire a lawyer who always settles for plea bargains Without fighting for the best possible outcome. Sometimes a plea bargain is in your best interest, but you need an attorney with the experience to tell you that rather than someone who jut wants to take your money and resolve a case via plea as quickly as possible.
Have You Ever Handled Cases Like Mine?
Experience isn’t the only factor you should be looking at. A lawyer who has handled a case like yours can save you tremendous time since they’ve already experienced fighting against similar charges. They know what to expect and can better strategize how to counteract against the State. Just keep in mind that the facts of every case are different.
The defense attorney can give you an estimate of what the legal fees will be, how long the process might take, and your obligations like providing them with the right documents and even maybe former conviction information to help them along the way.
What Are Possible Outcomes for My Case?
When you tell the lawyer the general details of your case, they should have a strategy envisioned mapping out the steps they’re going to take to fight against the charges, and then determine how strong your case will be.
The lawyer should never guarantee success or specific results because there are so many ways for the case to play out. The criminal defense attorney should also be very up front with you about what kind of prison or jail time you may be facing in your case. They should not sugar coat anything in hopes of getting you to pay their fee.
What Fees Will I Be Responsible for?
It’s better to know up front what the attorney’s rate will be rather than at the end when your case is over and you need to sign for all the legal fees.
The defense attorney will either charge you a flat rate or an hourly rate. A flat rate may be offered for misdemeanors like criminal damage, thefts, and domestic violence assaults or felony charges like murders, drug sales, gang charges, aggravated assaults, fraud schemes. Often times experts or investigators are paid by you directly, but your attorney should know the best experts or investigators to retain.
Make sure you get a copy of all the legal fee agreements to see where your money will be allocated.
Finding Your Criminal Defense Attorney
After interviewing your list of prospect lawyers, you should have a general idea of which lawyer has the experience you need, which lawyer offered the best advice, and which lawyer you felt most comfortable and confident with. The lawyer is responsible for your life and freedom after all, so be careful which one you decide on.
You can look online at what former clients have had to say about the lawyer you’re interested in to learn what they liked or disliked about the lawyer and if they would recommend them. The lawyer should be happy to provide you with any former client testimonials. Remember that the most expensive lawyer isn’t always the most suitable for your case. You want a lawyer who is passionate and experienced, someone who cares about you more as a person rather than just a paycheck.