If you are facing a criminal charge, especially a serious state or federal charge, it is typically in your best interest to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. Most attorneys offer a free initial consultation, and even if you do not hire that particular attorney to represent you in court, meeting with them can help you better understand the charges against you, possible defenses available, what plea bargains might be offered to you, and what to do in the event of a conviction.
What does a defense attorney do?
Criminal defense attorneys represent clients who have been charged with criminal conduct or who have had a lawsuit filed against them. When an attorney specializes in criminal defense they typically have more experience in cases that may be similar to yours and can better advise you of your options. An experienced criminal defense attorney will also be able to identify key pretrial issues, issue motions that could potentially improve your situation, and even possibly get your case dismissed.
It is also important to know what type of criminal defense attorney you will need to represent you. Depending on the charges against you, state or federal, it may be advisable to look for an attorney who has more experience in that particular area of law. For example, being charged with breaking a federal law will typically require a more experienced defense attorney who has the capability to dedicate a large amount of time to your case, because federal cases are usually far more complex.
It is not uncommon for criminal defense attorneys to specialize in a particular area of criminal defense so it is important to get an understanding of the experience, focus areas, and relevant case experience when you meet with your potential attorney. It is especially important to look for an attorney who is willing to dedicate the time and resources to learn about your case and plan your defense.
What is a public defender?
Public defenders, in most instances, are attorneys who represent clients who cannot afford a private attorney. However, public defenders typically have little time and resources available to them to work on cases. This is due to the fact that they are often juggling a large amount of cases at the same time. This is not to say that a public defender is not passionate and acting with the best intentions, the reality of the situation is that they may just be overwhelmed by the volume of work they have and as a result may not provide the best representation in criminal court.
What should I look for in a defense attorney?
The initial consultation is usually a great opportunity to get to know the attorney, discuss the details of your case, and gain a better understanding of the relevant experience that they have. You should consider discussing:
- Communication – You want an attorney with excellent communication skills.
- Record – You want an attorney who has a good track record in criminal cases.
- Experience – What relevant case experience does the attorney have?
- Outcomes – What are some of the outcomes the attorney has achieved in criminal cases similar to your case.
- Work – Find out who will be working on your case and what percentage of time the lawyer will be dedicating to your case compared to any assistants that are brought in. Also find out what would happen if the attorney became suddenly unavailable, such as an illness.
- Fees – Different attorneys have different methods of charging clients; these may include a retainer, flat fees, hourly rates, and/or fees for specific aspects of the case. Fees can also vary depending on the type of case, for example a misdemeanor versus a felony.
It may also be of benefit to discuss their educational background and what professional associations they belong to. It is advisable to do your homework ahead of time, it will help you feel more comfortable and ensure that you are getting what you are paying for. You should not hire an attorney based purely on the recommendation of others, advertisements, and so on. If you are charged with a crime that could result in a criminal record you need someone with experience, and you should explore the options available to you in order to make the best decision.
We have touched on the initial consultation already, but it is very important that you meet the attorney and decide if you feel confident in their skills and their discussion of your case. Just because you have an initial consultation does not mean that you are obligated to hire that particular attorney, if you do not have a good feeling about them after your consultation, you likely should not hire them.