Criminal charges are no joke and your liberty may be at stake. This is no time to wait and see what happens – deadlines are coming and things will happen quickly with your case. This is the time you need a hardworking criminal defense attorney on your side – the odds always favor the house, so you need the best criminal attorney you can find and afford to help level the playing field.
Hiring a criminal defense attorney may make the difference between spending a significant amount of time in prison – possibly life, depending on the charges – and walking away on probation. So what should you look for when trying to find a great criminal defense attorney? How do you know that you have found the best attorney to represent you for your case? A few things to look for:
When hiring a criminal defense attorney, you want to make sure they have both the knowledge and skills to handle your case. You want to find:
→ Someone who is experienced in representing defendants with your type of charges
You want to make sure that the criminal defense attorney that you hire has experience defending against your type of charges – it does you no good to have an attorney experienced in defending against white collar crimes when you have been charged with an OWI.
→ Someone who focuses on criminal law
There are a lot of attorneys out there and many of them list criminal law as an area of practice. You want to make sure that you find a criminal defense attorney that has experience defending criminal cases, not someone who dabbles. Make sure to ask the attorney how much criminal defense experience they have and whether they have experience defending against your type of charges. Be sure to also ask what kind of outcomes they have received – you don’t want to hire someone who loses consistently.
→ Is responsive and proactive
Time is flying when you have been charged with a crime. If you have been charged with a felony, you have a probable cause conference and preliminary exam coming within fourteen days of arraignment. You need a criminal defense attorney who will start working right away to manage your case and put you in the best possible place going forward.
→ Has confidence
A confident attorney is a successful attorney. You want an attorney who is confident that they know what they are doing, is well spoken, and professional. A confident attorney is one who will be persuasive in court – in front of both judge and jury. It is easy to judge whether an attorney is confident. A confident attorney will greet you with a firm handshake, make eye contact, and a professional appearance. If an attorney is not confident, chances are they don’t know what they are doing.
→ Knows the law well
While the law is always changing, an attorney should have the basics of the most common crimes down. They should have a good idea of how the higher courts are treating appeals and the common areas of attack. While they may have to do some research, an attorney that has to research every little thing is a sign that the attorney either doesn’t take cases in this area often and is out of practice, or doesn’t know what they are doing. An experienced criminal defense attorney should be able to explain the rationale behind the charges, what the charges involve, and the likely outcomes and punishments for your charges. They should also know what questions to ask to determine what information can be used at trial and if any details will help win your case.
→ Has great referrals/online reviews
Bad attorneys get bad reviews. While any great attorney may have a bad review or two from an unhappy customer, the majority of the reviews should be good. You want an attorney that will care about you as a client and help get a successful outcome on your case. Bad attorneys are just that – bad. They may not return calls, may miss deadlines, etc. This is not the kind of attorney you want. Good attorneys, however, get generally good reviews and have mostly happy clients. These are the attorneys you can depend on to work hard for you.
→ Is experienced in your local courts
A criminal defense attorney experienced in your local courts know how your judges treat cases. While each judge in each jurisdiction does things slightly differently, knowing what your judge will do is key. Having a defense attorney who knows how your judges respond and how your court works will come in handy when strategizing for your case and knowing what outcomes are likely.
→ Is upfront about their fees and how the money is earned
A trustworthy criminal defense attorney is upfront and clear about their fees. They will explain their prices, when payment is due and when money is earned, and clearly outline what is included in the cost – and what isn’t – as well as giving you a written contract. A criminal defense attorney will never work on a contingency basis, but may work on a flat fee basis or an hourly basis. Watch out for strange pricing and super-high or super-low fees, but remember that if you are paying flat fee that you are paying for the experience, not just the time involved. An extremely low price is indicative of either a bad lawyer, a desperate lawyer, or a lawyer who will hit you with unseen fees down the road. An extremely high price should make you question whether you will be getting your moneys’ worth. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney who has a high success rate is worth every penny.