If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a crime, you'll need the immediate assistance of a criminal defense lawyer familiar with your local court's criminal justice system. A good criminal defense lawyer can explain your rights and the facts of your case in all stages of the criminal process. The right lawyer and legal representation can help make the difference between a reduced plea bargain or dismissal and a jail sentence.
Below is important information you need to know before hiring a criminal defense lawyer to represent you in a criminal matter.
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Being charged with a crime (whether major or minor) is a serious matter. A person facing criminal charges risks severe penalties and consequences, such as jail time, having a criminal record, and loss of relationships and future job prospects. While some legal issues can be handled alone, a criminal arrest of any nature warrants the legal advice of a qualified criminal defense attorney. They can protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome for your case.
If you are a criminal defendant or you think you will face criminal prosecution in the future, a good attorney who specializes in criminal defense law will help you understand:
- The nature of the charges filed
- The specific legal issues presented
- Any available defenses
- What the legal process will look like
- What plea bargains are likely to be offered
- What is expected after trial or conviction
What To Look for When Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Criminal defense attorneys handle various types of cases, including felony charges, DUIs (Driving Under the Influence), misdemeanors, drug crimes, white-collar crimes, and many other state and federal crimes. When looking for a criminal defense lawyer, you'll want to find the best criminal defense lawyer for your case. As such, you should concentrate on the lawyer's years of experience, skill level, knowledge, and legal team.
A good criminal defense lawyer can help:
- Reduce your criminal charge to a lesser offense (for example, reduce a felony offense to a misdemeanor)
- Lessen the severity of the punishment for the crime
- Reduce or eliminate jail time (via probation, for example)
- Help you develop a sound defense strategy (if your case goes to trial)
Because of the nature of what's at stake, it's important that the attorney you hire has the necessary skill level to defend the case. For instance, you may need someone familiar with crime scene investigations, witness/victim/police interviewing, and extensive knowledge of polygraphs, sketches, photographs, and video.
Finally, because criminal laws and penalties vary by state, it's important that the attorney has experience with the state and local rules of court.
Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Before selecting a criminal defense lawyer, you should feel comfortable enough speaking with them concerning all aspects of your criminal charge. Below are some of the questions you should ask:
- What is your primary practice area?
- Do you have any experience handling cases similar to mine?
- How much of my criminal case will you actually handle?
- How many jury trials have you litigated?
- How often do you work out plea agreements or ask for a lesser charge?
- What are your attorney's fees, and how are they calculated? Do you offer a payment plan?
- Would you be willing to provide references from clients you've helped?
Criminal Defense Lawyer Legal Fees
The cost of hiring a criminal defense lawyer will vary depending on a number of factors, including the attorney's experience, reputation, track record, and geographical location. Most criminal defense attorneys bill their time either hourly or by a flat fee arrangement. Depending on the fee arrangement, some attorneys may allow you to get on a payment plan to handle ongoing charges. Others may require an upfront retainer fee before working on the case.
In all cases, it's wise to consult with a variety of criminal defense lawyers in your area to find one you feel comfortable with representing you and to get a sense of the costs involved.
If you can't afford to hire a private attorney, you may be able to receive a state or court-appointed attorney to represent you in your case. If this applies to you, speak to a public defender in your area for more information.
Are You Ready To Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
If you've been charged with an offense that could result in a criminal conviction, you'll probably want legal counsel on your side. Get started today and reach out to a criminal lawyer near you to schedule an initial consultation and receive personalized legal advice.