Choosing The Right Defense Lawyer For Your Needs
You wouldn’t call a plumber to treat you for a cold; and the same kind of thinking should apply to your decision to hire an lawyer. If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, you shouldn’t be sitting down with a DUI lawyer, or one who specializes in bankruptcy or malpractice. There are numerous areas of legal practice, and myriad highly trained lawyers in each field to help clients through any legal troubles they might come to. Powerful representation in legal matters could mean the difference between your freedom and incarceration, so it’s important to seek the right representation for your case.
So Where Do You Start?
If you’re under investigation or have already been charged with a crime, you’ll want to have the best criminal defense lawyer you can get on your side. While it’s important not to skimp on your legal representation, it’s also important to stay within your budget. The best place to start is with the people you already know and trust. If you’re comfortable speaking about your case to friends, family, and even non-criminal defense lawyers that you may know, then ask them for their recommendations for criminal defense lawyers. By gathering a list of lawyers through referrals, you’ll be able to ask specific questions and get details, rather than a plain list of names. You can ask about whether the lawyer was on time, if they were reasonably transparent and available, and what your trusted source liked most about their experience with their criminal defense lawyer.
You should try to create a list of 3-5 lawyers before attempting to choose the best one for your legal needs. If you have too many choices, consider how many cases each lawyer has handled like yours and their success rate, and any other outstanding qualifications they may have. Keep in mind that years in practice do not always correspond to years of experience. You’ll need a lawyer who is familiar with the prosecutors, judges, and procedures in your area. A criminal defense lawyer who has been in practice for ten years may have handled more cases than a general practitioner or civil lawyer who has been in practice for more than twenty. When choosing your legal representation, always be sure to look for experience over years in practice.
But How Do I Choose?
Now that your list has been narrowed down, you can begin to set up in-person meetings. However, if you’ve been arrested and taken to jail and your first court appearance is the following day, you can do your interview and even begin talking about your legal options. Many lawyers will even offer a free consultation to begin. You’ll need to bring a summary of your case and details like when you were arrested, the circumstances of the arrest, if there was anyone else involved, and your charges. At the end of your consultation, your lawyer will have helped you to understand the charges, what the prosecutor needs to prove or establish to find you guilty, the defenses available to you, any key issues that will occur before the trial, what plea bargains-if any-will be offered, and the consequences that you may need to face. And because it’s important that you know all of these things in order to have your best chance at a positive outcome for your case, you’ll need to have a lawyer who puts in sufficient time to learn your case and plan your defense. If you don’t feel comfortable with the analysis that your lawyer gives you, it could mean that you should consider other legal representation options. Your lawyer may have all the experience in the world, but your case will ultimately hinge on negotiations with the prosecutor or with a judge and jury. Any criminal defense lawyer who tries to guarantee you an outcome right from the start is also not someone you should choose to represent you.
Don’t forget to consider the cost of your case. Many lawyers charge a flat fee paid in advance, others by the hour, and some by a hybrid of the two. However, criminal defense cases do not allow for contingency fees, which are based on the lawyer’s achievement of certain results. The lawyer’s fee is different from filing fees and similar court costs, so you’ll want to make sure that you know what services you will be charged for. You’ll want a quote of your expected costs before signing the retainer.
Couldn’t I Just Represent Myself?
It’s imperative that you have knowledgeable legal assistance for your case. The Hollywood version of a criminal trial is not far removed from the truth: the details may be sensationalized, but the basic procedural aspects are generally accurate. While you are within your rights to represent yourself, you’ll come to depend on your defense lawyer for things like instructing you during pre-trial investigations so that you don’t reveal anything incriminating, representing you during plea negotiations to increase your chances of a favorable outcome and reduced punishment, persuading the court to reduce or waive your bail, planning your defense, and assisting you with the appeals process, as needed.
Above all, you should select a criminal lawyer you trust. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your lawyer, and they could be the difference between spending time behind bars or retaining your freedom.