Groups » How to Choose a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer in Nine Easy Steps

Selecting the right criminal defense attorney is the most important part of any run-in with the law. Irrespective of whether you are guilty or not, seeking the correct representation should be your top priority. However, finding a credible criminal defense lawyer is easier said than done.

A criminal case differs significantly from a civil court case. Unlike a civil lawsuit, only the government can initiate a criminal case. If the defendant pleads not-guilty, the case moves to trial. In a criminal lawsuit, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution. Follow these nine steps below to learn how to choose the best criminal defense lawyer for your case.

1. Figure Out Your Requirement

The first step is to figure out why you need a criminal defense lawyer. If you have committed a minor crime, you may consider consulting a lawyer only once before your trial. For instance, if you are booked for a petty traffic violation, you can simply pay the fine and the charges may be dropped. You don’t need a lawyer to fight a parking ticket charge. On the other hand, if you have committed a felony, you should hire a competent defense attorney immediately.

2. Decide What Type of Attorney You Need

If you have broken a state law, hire a lawyer who specializes in state law. However, you will need a more experienced criminal defense attorney if you are being charged with breaking a federal law. This is because federal cases are prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office. A prosecutor from this office has more time and resources, with years of experience.

3. Look for a Specialized Criminal Defense Lawyer

You should hire a lawyer who has worked on cases similar to yours. Most criminal attorneys handle routine criminal cases, but a few handle cases concerning a particular practice area. For instance, several lawyers work exclusively on financial cases or white collar crimes. The State Bar Association in many states offers specialization in criminal law, which is a credible source to begin your search.

4. Always Hire a Local Attorney

You should try to hire an attorney who works in the courthouse where your case is pending. This is important because a local lawyer knows the local prosecutor handling your case. He/ she knows the way local prosecutor operates. For example, the D.A. in your county may have a no-plea-bargaining policy with respect to certain offenses. Local lawyers also know local police officers and how they perform before the jury. In a few criminal matters, the case might be filed in a different jurisdiction where you don’t actually live. In this case, you may want to hire a lawyer local to the criminal prosecution.

5. Shortlist Top Ten Defense Lawyers

You can begin your search for a lawyer at the local bar association’s office. Alternatively, you can use your favorite search engine to get a list of top ten defense lawyers. A few websites offer free online searches where you can find the type of attorney you need based on a location. Note down whatever valuable information you can find on their websites.

6. Experience Is the Most Important Factor

Experience is the principal factor to consider when hiring a defense attorney. However, it is wise to consider the attorney’s relative experience, regardless of whether the attorney is from Illinois or if he or she is a Bradenton Criminal Defense Lawyer. You can check on the relative experience by enquiring about the previous cases handled by the concerned attorney. Try to choose an attorney who practices a particular criminal law exclusively.

7. How Are They Going to Charge You

A professional defense attorney will charge you based on the complexity of your case. He/ she will typically ask for a retainer if your case requires bringing in expert witnesses, or if needs extensive motions. Lawyers have three different ways of charging their clients. While a few lawyers may charge a flat fee, most defense attorneys charge on an hourly basis. Some lawyers may also charge fees for dealing with specific parts of the case. While hourly rates are most affordable, they are also the least predictable, as it is difficult to guess precisely how much time your case will take. Rates can be competitive, so shopping around may benefit you.

8. Arrange a Face-to-Face Consultation as Early as Possible

Most lawyers may offer a free initial consultation. A consultation is not a binding agreement. In fact, it is an opportunity to make sure that you are selecting a suitable attorney with required skills. If time permits, meet with as many shortlisted attorneys as possible. If you are really short on time, at least speak with each attorney over the phone. After the consultation, if you feel that you can’t trust a particular attorney; scratch his/her name off your list. There is nothing wrong with dropping an attorney after a consultation.

9. Ask Specific Questions During the Consultation

It is imperative to focus your attention on asking case-specific questions. Do not hide any facts related to your case from a lawyer. Ask about fees, payment schedules, and case scenarios without hesitation. Try to be as frank with him/her as possible, as it will work in your favor. Ask the lawyer what he/she thinks of your case after you have laid out the details. Beware of any lawyer who guarantees a specific result before making a court appearance or before analyzing your case thoroughly.

As you can see, hiring a competent criminal defense lawyer is quite the task. It is also extremely important because serious criminal offenses carry heavy punishments. As a matter of fact, your choice should be governed by the seriousness of your case. You should feel comfortable dealing with the lawyer you hire. He/she should also have experience and resources to handle your case. These nine easy steps can help you hire a competent defense attorney, since you can’t rely on your gut instincts alone.

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