There’s not a time where anyone wants to have to hire a criminal defense attorney, but unfortunately, it can be the reality.
If you’re charged with a crime such as a DUI, it will be in your best interest to hire a criminal defense attorney.
According to Orent Law Offices, based in Phoenix, while time is a factor in criminal cases, you shouldn’t rush to accept the legal aid of the first attorney you speak with.
Not hiring an attorney can mean that you have a much lower chance of successfully fighting your case. It can end up being very lengthy and while you might think not hiring an attorney will save you money, in the long run, it might be more expensive.
A good criminal attorney will be able to give you legal advice and help you develop an appropriate strategy. They might be able to help you speed things up, and they can ensure you get the best outcome in your particular situation.
Specific reasons to hire a criminal defense attorney beyond the general ones above include:
- An experienced attorney understands the confusing, complex legal system. Something as simple as not filing the right paperwork at the right time can destroy your case, and an attorney knows about the details to make things move along smoothly and properly.
- Defense attorneys tend to have relationships with prosecutors. That can help if the relationship is good. When your defense attorney is experienced and does maintain positive relationships with prosecutors, they might be able to negotiate something like a more favorable plea deal.
- A good attorney will likely have experience and perhaps substantial experience dealing with cases just like yours.
- Your attorney may be able to help get your case dismissed or your charges reduced because of things like errors made on the part of the police when obtaining evidence. This could help you stay out of jail and avoid losing your job. Along with generally reducing the legal penalties, a good attorney can help lessen the overall impacts of a criminal conviction in every area of your life.
So how do you find a good attorney?
A good starting point to hire a lawyer of any kind can be referrals from friends or family. With that being said, people, you know might be less likely to pass on the word of a good criminal defense attorney for obvious reasons.
You may have to start with some general research and by looking at things like online reviews.
Once you have a shortlist of potential candidates, you can start thinking about the questions to ask before you hire someone.
Questions to Ask
Plan to meet with at least three criminal defense attorneys before selecting one. Questions to ask include:
- Do you have experience working on cases that are like mine?
- How much of the case is being handled by you?
- What is your experience litigating jury trials?
- How many instances do you have where you’ve asked for lesser charges or worked out plea deals?
- What are your fees, how do you calculate them, and do you have payment plan options?
- Can I speak to references who are your previous clients?
A criminal defense attorney is likely going to be a big investment, but again, the costs of not hiring someone might go far beyond an attorney’s fees.
You do need to manage your own expectations when it comes to how much it will cost to hire someone to represent you in a criminal case.
Some of the specific factors influencing fees and overall costs include where you live, reputation and experience, and the attorney’s track record.
Most defense attorneys will bill based on either a flat fee arrangement, or they’ll bill hourly.
You may be able to set up a payment plan.
Some attorneys might require you to pay them something upfront before they start working, which is known as a retainer.
Go with Your Gut
Working with a defense attorney is stressful because of the very nature of your case. You need to find someone who’s experienced and has the professional know-how to represent you, but you can’t ignore your gut feeling.
You have to feel comfortable with this person, and you’re going to have to be fully upfront and honest with them about everything.
You want someone who seems responsive and respectful.
Your attorney needs to outline very clearly what you can expect from them in terms of communication.
When you’re initially talking to attorneys, ask them directly how often you can expect to hear from them. You should have regular updates on the progress of your case.
Flashy Marketing Isn’t Always Best
Attorneys are business owners just like anyone else, and that means they market and advertise. While an attorney who advertises can be great at what they do, flashy marketing isn’t always a good indicator of just how effective an attorney will be.
Are You Hiring a Team of Attorneys?
When you’re searching for an attorney, while you do want someone who is your point person in terms of communication, having a team of attorneys work on your case isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Criminal defense cases tend to be very complicated. Your main attorney might need input from other attorneys to plan your defense.
If your lawyer works entirely alone, they might not have this expertise to pull from. Plus, that lawyer is also going to be working on a lot of different cases in different courts.
Finally, when you’re hiring a defense attorney, you should never expect a guarantee, nor will a good attorney promise you one.
If an attorney gives you a guarantee, they’re taking advantage of your vulnerability.
Of course, when you’re talking to lawyers it’s normal to go over possible outcomes and help you figure out what your chances are, but again, it’s that guarantee component that’s a problem.
In some states, making any kind of guarantee on a case is against State Bar rules.
Hiring a defense attorney is stressful, but don’t let your emotions take over. Be strategic because it can alter the course of your life in either direction.