In A Bind? What To Look For In A Criminal Defense Lawyer When You’re Short On Time And Stakes Are High
You never thought you’d be charged with a crime, but here you are now, in a bind. Here’s what to look for in a criminal defense lawyer when you’re short on time
Everyone makes mistakes. If you are charged with a criminal offense, it is important to find a good lawyer to go to bat for you.
There are many types of lawyers and they are not all the same. You need an attorney experienced in working with criminal trials who has a proven success rate.
There are a few things to think about when facing this fight for your freedom and reputation. Time is of the essence, and important decisions need to made quickly.
Continue reading for what to look for in a criminal defense lawyer.
What Not to Do
What not to do is often as important as what to do. Let’s start with that first.
No Public Defender
You do not want a public defender. Yes, they are smart, hard-working individuals, but most are too overloaded with work to give your case the attention it deserves.
If you are facing a criminal charge, the outcome could follow you for the rest of your life. You do not want this case in the hands of anyone who is not experienced in your type of charge.
Do Not Trust Inexperience
It may be cheaper to go with a new or inexperienced lawyer, but that may not be the best decision. You do not want to trust your future with someone who is just starting out and doesn’t understand criminal law.
It is also important for the attorney you hire to have experience as a trial lawyer. Knowing the law is one thing, but being able to present your case in front of a jury, if it comes down to that, can make all the difference in the outcome.
What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Lawyer
You want to act quickly after you have been charged with a criminal offense.
The internet is a good place to start to find an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Reputable law firms will have a website that is easy to read, move around on and provide detailed information on their services.
Ideally, they will have ten or more years of practicing law and will be able to steer you in the right direction. They have made it their life’s work to make sure everyone is treated fairly and knows how to handle unforeseen issues that may arise.
You should look for one who specializes in the type of crime you are accused of. The laws are constantly changing and you need someone who is knowledgeable and keeps up to date on matters that could affect your case.
If you are near the San Antonio area, learn more about their top experienced criminal lawyers ready to work for you.
The First Appointment
The first meeting is important in establishing a good relationship with your lawyer.
This initial consultation is not a binding agreement. It is a chance for both parties to meet, discuss the case and see if it is a good fit for both.
Feel free to ask about previous cases that were similar to yours. What did they do? How was the outcome?
You should also discuss their current workload and if they have time to devote to your case. It is a good idea to ask how quickly they can start.
Most lawyers are very busy, so the first time you may meet with an associate to help gather information, documents, and details. Do not get upset if this occurs. You will probably have more than one person on your legal team.
Be prepared to take your time discussing the facts and provide as much information as you can.
There are specific documents that you will need to bring with you for that initial meeting.
Bring any paperwork given to you by the court that lists all the charges and the next time you must appear in court. You should also bring your bail paperwork.
You should have been given a copy of the police report and any findings they may have made. Please make sure you bring this to your meeting.
You should provide any information that the attorney might find helpful in preparing your case. Were there any witnesses? Do you have any co-defendants? What can you tell them about the victim(s)?
In some cases, you may also have been a victim. There are actions you can take to protect yourself if this happened.
Come prepared to take notes yourself. The attorney will take plenty of notes, but you will need to remember a lot of what was said in that first meeting. Having a notebook where you can write down what was said can help you remember important facts.
How Much Does a Defense Attorney Cost
Criminal lawyers will charge either by the hour or a flat fee. The more experience, the higher the cost, but your future is at stake, so you will want to keep that in mind.
The average criminal attorney also charges a retainer fee that is required as soon as an agreement is reached.
The hourly fee can seem cheaper at first, but it is hard to predict how long the entire process will take.
A flat fee may be easier to understand, but be sure to find out exactly what it includes. Is any portion refundable? Does it have to be paid up front, or can you make payments?
Whatever the rates for the particular lawyer you choose, remember to ask about any additional fees. Do not assume that everything will be covered in their fee. Be prepared for other out of pocket expenses.
As a general rule, felony cases usually start around $5000 with the more serious offenses often going much higher.
Managing Your Case
Once you have picked an attorney and agreed on how to pay for their services, the business of your defense can begin.
The first thing you need to do is be completely honest. The attorney/client privilege is now in effect and your lawyer will need to know everything there is about you and the events in question in order to develop a proper defense strategy.
Talk about your options. Should you plead guilty or consider a deal? What are your chances if it goes to trial?
Feel free to ask whatever questions you have. What can you expect through the process? How often will they communicate with you and by what means? What should you do if you have a question or concern about the way things are being handled?
A reputable attorney will not mind these questions and will work to gain your trust. A solid relationship needs to be built so they can perform at their best for your defense. It is their job to find the outcome that will have the least negative impact on the rest of your life.
Allow the Attorney to Do Their Job
You have a lot riding on the outcome of this situation. It may be tempting to tell the attorney what you think should be done. However, you hired them for a reason.
Let the professionals do their job. The legal system is complicated and the lawyer you hired knows their way around the law and the system.
Give them the freedom to work on your behalf and trust their judgment. It is absolutely ok to want updates and provide feedback, but you must rely on their expertise.
Keep an open line of communication flowing. Respond quickly, and honestly, to any questions or concerns your lawyer presents. Everything they are doing is to put you in the best possible position.
Depending on the charge and your situation, there are many unanswered questions.
Now that you know what to look for in a criminal defense lawyer, you can focus on how to deal with the situation and move forward with your life.
If you need insight to help improve your future and succeed in life, read here.