When you have been or are about to be charged with a crime, the first order of business is to hire a criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and seek the best outcome of your case. Here are some areas to consider when finding the attorney practicing criminal law.
You have to be able to work with the criminal defense attorney whom you choose. Thus, you should evaluate these key areas:
An experienced attorney in criminal law is definitely an asset. They typically possess a broad based skills set many obtained via a high quality Criminal justice masters degree program which will set you in good stead. You want to know if he has dealt with a case similar to yours in the past. Obviously, this will increase his chances of success with your case if he has experience.
You will be able to tell right away if the criminal defense attorney you choose has confidence. This usually becomes apparent after you discuss the charges with the attorney at the initial consultation. Be careful though. If the attorney tells you that he can win the case for you but doesn’t tell you how he plans to approach it, this may be a sign of over-confidence which won’t do you any good.
It’s the same way with an attorney’s directness. Does he ask direct questions and seek definitive answers from you? Does he tell you up-front what you are looking at in terms of a possible case outcome and the fees you may have to pay?.
Many criminal defense attorneys have gimmicky television advertisements and slogans in hopes that these will catch the largest clientele. A lawyer that is worth his weight does not have to resort to these marketing tactics and lets his professionalism do the talking.
A criminal defense attorney’s specialty is important as well. One of the most common situations where a criminal defense lawyer is needed is when the charge is driving under the influence (DUI). Take a situation where you have been to a nightclub and had two or three drinks. Knowing well that you are not intoxicated, you drive home and get stopped at a DUI checkpoint.
The officer at the checkpoint is under pressure to make DUI arrests so he asks you if you have been drinking. You, being a law abiding citizen, say yes and tell the officer you had two or three. At this point, the officer can give you a field sobriety test which includes a breathalyzer. You pass the breathalyzer yet he still arrests you for DUI. This is because in the state where you were stopped, the laws prescribe that the officer can arrest you even if he has a suspicion you are intoxicated.
It makes sense that you want to hire a criminal defense attorney who is specialized in DUI cases. This specialty is important because the attorney will know that the fact that you passed a breathalyzer test will put holes in the officer’s testimony.
This is a simple example of why specialty is important. There are other types of crimes such as those in the white collar class that involve things like fraud and securities violations. In these cases, you would want an attorney specializing in these areas.
Price is always a factor when selecting an attorney. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because an attorney is high-priced that he will be any more effective. This is where specialization comes into play as well. An attorney who is specialized and experienced in your type of case will not have to spend so much time on research. This saves you money if the attorney is billing by the hour.
Some attorneys charge a flat-fee retainer and return the unused portion after the trial. This is a good way to keep costs under control.
Also keep in mind that it is unethical for attorneys to represent criminal cases on a contingency fee basis. Contingency fees are based on the successful outcome for a defendant (or plaintiff). They only make sense in civil and not criminal matters.
If you have friends recommending a particular attorney to you then consider yourself fortunate. Word of mouth is one of the best indications that this lawyer may be right for you. This is especially true if the lawyer has all of the other qualifications and is easy to communicate with.
You can view an attorney with a heavy case load in one of two ways. Either his case load is heavy because he’s good or he is stretched too thin.
If the attorney is stretched too thin, he may not be able to devote the necessary resources to defending your case. An indication of this is when he doesn’t return your phone calls and doesn’t consult with you for days.
On the other hand, if your attorney returns your phone calls and has some definite status updates then he may have a heavy case load but can manage it well.
Being charged with a crime is a life-changing matter. You don’t want to hastily hire a criminal defense attorney because of the seriousness of what you are under. Do your homework and remember that you can always hire another lawyer if the first one you select doesn’t fit well for you.