If you’re charged with a crime, your first step should be to find a good defense attorney to help you navigate the legal process. Trying to represent yourself could result in harsh penalties and costly fines.
While finding an attorney in a timely manner is important, the last thing you want to do is hire the first lawyer you find online. All criminal attorneys aren’t created equal, so you’ll need to do a little work before you make a decision.
If you’re in this stressful situation and need help finding appropriate representation to protect your legal rights, keep reading. We’re going over seven tips on how to choose a criminal defense lawyer.
1. Look for the Right Kind of Experience
The practice of criminal law varies based on the type of crime and the state in which it’s committed. It’s important you find a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in the type of offense you got charged with.
Some criminal lawyers will claim they can handle any type of charge. However, they may just be trying to get your business. While they may be able to defend you, they won’t do as good a job as someone who focuses their practice on the type of charge you’re up against.
That’s why it’s important to look at an attorney’s background before giving them a call. If they specialize in a particular type of law, they’ll advertise this on their site. For a good example of a law firm that specializes in drug-related offenses, view here for more.
You should also check for legal specialization by the State Bar Association for the particular area of law you’re looking for.
2. Stick with a Local Attorney
When searching for a lawyer, it’s important you find someone who practices in the city you got arrested in. This may seem strange, but it could make a difference in the outcome of your case.
Criminal attorneys typically know the prosecutors who practice in local courts. This could help when working a deal for a reduced sentence.
They’ll also be familiar with the local judges and will know what to expect. They may be able to avoid a certain courtroom if a judge is particularly harsh.
Attorneys also have other legal connections that can help your case along and understand how the courts operate in the area. A judge from out of town won’t have this insight.
3. Check Out Online Directories
Another great way to find criminal defense attorneys in your area is to check out online legal directories. There are many that provide quality listings.
You should first check the State Bar Association website. Most have a searchable online directory of attorneys who hold memberships.
Many attorneys are also members of AVVO, which is a top directory for finding qualified attorneys. You should also check if your state has a Board of Criminal Law Specialization and check their website for a referral.
4. Ask for Referral
Seeking out personal and professional recommendations is another great way to find a good defense attorney.
The great thing about a recommendation is you get a firsthand account of how the attorney conducts business. This will give you a sense of their demeanor and professionalism.
When seeking out a personal referral, make sure it’s from someone who’s gone through a very similar experience as you. If the outcome was good for them, it may also be good for you.
If you’ve used a different type of attorney for something else in the past, asking them for a referral to a criminal law attorney can’t hurt. Lawyers have a tightly-knit network and typically have professional relationships or friendships with all type of attorneys.
5. Read Online Reviews
During your search for the right attorney, it’s important you read online reviews. These are readily available on social media, lawyer websites, and places like Bing and Yelp.
Client reviews give you a good idea of how an attorney conducts business. They also give you some insight into an attorney’s success rate.
When reading reviews, it’s important to keep in mind that no attorney can win every case. Just because you see one negative review doesn’t mean the lawyer isn’t qualified.
However, you should keep your eye out for frequent negative reviews in a relatively small amount of time. You should also look for complaints about an attorney’s response time or problems with additional fees.
6. Make Sure They Fit Your Budget
You need to determine your budget before hiring someone. Then, shop around and get a few prices.
Criminal defense lawyers either charge a fixed fee or an hourly rate. They may also ask for a retainer.
The cost depends on the type of charges you’re up against and the amount of time the attorney thinks the case will last. It also depends on how experienced the attorney is.
If you’re facing serious charges, it may benefit you to pay more for experienced representation. Keep in mind that if you’re sentenced, you may end up paying additional court fines.
Many attorneys will work with clients on payment options, so make sure you ask during your consultation.
7. The Consultation
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to set up an initial consultation. Many criminal attorneys offer them for free.
Meeting with a lawyer can be nerve-wracking, so it’s important you prepare some questions in advance.
The first thing you should ask is how they feel about your case. Is it open and shut, or are there complications that make the defense more difficult?
You should also ask about the approach they’ll take. Make sure they explain all your options and possible outcomes.
Finally, you need to discuss attorney fees. Make sure they disclose any hidden charges that may pop up.
Now You Know How to Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer
The fact that you need an attorney may make you feel anxious and afraid. However, working with experienced representation helps assure you can put the event behind you sooner rather than later.
When deciding how to choose a criminal defense lawyer, make sure you use the tips above. This will provide peace of mind that you’re working with the right person.
For more articles that will help you succeed, check out our blog.