When you’re facing criminal charges, it’s essential to have the best criminal defense attorney on your side. Hiring an experienced criminal lawyer could be the difference between spending years in prison and having freedom. What should you look for when you’re hiring a criminal defense attorney? How do you know that you have the best one for your case?
When hiring a defense attorney, you will want to ensure that they have the proper skills to handle your case. You should hire a criminal lawyer who has experience, specializes in criminal law, is responsive and proactive, has confidence, knows the law well, has referrals, is experienced in the local courts, and is clear about their fees. Before hiring a lawyer, you should be confident in their capability to see your case through.
Finding the perfect lawyer can be challenging; there are so many criminal lawyers to choose from that it can seem almost impossible to find one that fits your specific needs. Let us make the process easier on you with our list of 8 tips for hiring a criminal defense attorney.
What To Look for in a Criminal Defense Lawyer
1) They have a good amount of experience
When hiring a criminal defense attorney, you will want to make sure that they have a decent amount of experience. Experience is the most crucial thing to look for when hiring a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer with many years of criminal defense experience will have a higher success rate than a lawyer with little to no experience. Even though experienced lawyers tend to have higher fees, it’s worth the cost, especially if you’re facing serious charges.
Luckily, most private criminal defense attorneys have worked either as a public defender or a prosecutor in the past, giving them experience in a wide variety of criminal cases. It’s essential to inquire about a lawyer’s background before you decide to hire them. If the lawyer gives vague responses or refuses to discuss their specific experience, then you should not hire them and keep looking for a different defender.
Some questions you can ask the lawyer you’re considering hiring:
- How many years of criminal defense experience do you have?
- Have you represented individuals who have been charged with…?
- What percentage of your cases involve representing people charged with…?
- What is the typical outcome of cases you handle involving … charges?
2) They have referrals
An essential step in finding the right defense attorney is simply asking your friends and family if they know or have used any good criminal lawyers. People you know may be able to give you insight on how a lawyer will handle your case that you otherwise would not be aware of. If you have any civil lawyers that you use (business matters, estate, divorce, will, etc.), you should ask them if they recommend any lawyers for a criminal case. Since you give your civil lawyers business, they are likely to recommend a highly reputable criminal attorney for you.
Also, you can search the internet for referrals and reviews of a specific lawyer. Some websites don’t let lawyers delete bad reviews, and these sites can be valuable resources when choosing a lawyer. Be careful of sites that allow lawyers to remove bad reviews posted about them, take time to do research, and check reviews on multiple sites. This ensures that you’re getting the services that you pay for and that you won’t be caught off guard by hiring a bad lawyer.
3) They specialize in criminal law
Many law firms offer criminal defense services. However, that doesn’t mean they specialize in criminal defense. It wouldn’t be wise to hire a private lawyer who is inexperienced in criminal law when you could work with a public defender who has more experience and will cost less. That being said, it is still in your best interest to hire a private lawyer as long as they specialize in criminal law.
When you first consult with a lawyer, ask them how much criminal defense experience they have. The more experienced, the better! Also, be sure to ask them about the outcomes of cases that they defended similar to yours. You can get a good idea of what kind of criminal cases they specialize in and their success rate of defending cases similar to yours. For example, you won’t want to hire a criminal defense attorney specializing in white-collar crimes if you’re charged with a DUI.
4) They know the law well
This one might be obvious, but make sure that your lawyer knows the law well! Specifically, they should be very familiar with criminal law and the local laws in your area. A good attorney should know the basics of most common crimes off the top of their head. Of course, they will still have to do some research; however, if you find that your lawyer is researching every little thing, it may be a sign that they aren’t the right lawyer for you. Knowing the law’s basics shows that the attorney is familiar and has experience with it. If they don’t, it just shows that they are inexperienced in that area of law.
The best criminal defense attorneys are familiar and comfortable in most areas of criminal law. They should be able to explain the reasoning behind your charges, what they involve, and the likely outcomes and punishments for your charges. They should also know what questions to ask you to determine what information can be used on trial and if any details may help you win the case.
5) They have local court connections
Just like in any field, networking is crucial in law. When looking for a defense attorney, it would be to your advantage to see if they have experience with the local courts. This is something that is often skimmed over when people are choosing a defense attorney. However, relations and connections can help tremendously in winning your case.
Each court has a slightly different process, and each judge also has their own way of handling things. Having a defense attorney familiar with these processes will be beneficial when strategizing how to win your case.
6) They are responsive and proactive
When you’re being charged with a crime, time is limited. You will want a proactive lawyer who will begin working on your case as soon as possible. A proactive lawyer will ensure that they handled your case thoroughly, not missing any critical details. They will also reach out to you with questions regarding the case to ensure they have all of the facts straight. With a proactive lawyer who communicates with you throughout the criminal process, you can be sure that your case is handled correctly.
The criminal procedure is stressful and confusing, and your lawyer should be accessible every step of the way during this process. Also, when you reach out to your lawyer, their response should be quick. A good defense lawyer will understand what you’re going through and will be there for you when needed. When you first call a law firm, keep a mental note of their response time and whether or not they asked you to leave a message. If you had to leave a message, did someone reach out to you quickly, or were you forced to wait a long time before hearing anything back? This initial call to a law firm can be a good indicator of how communicative your lawyer will be.
7) They are confident in their abilities
Your lawyer should be confident in their skills as an attorney. You want a lawyer that knows what they’re doing, and that will be persuasive in court. If your lawyer is not confident, the jury is likely to think you’re guilty of what you are charged with. Confidence comes with experience. If you hire an experienced lawyer, they are likely to be confident in their skills and more comfortable with the criminal process.
It’s easy to judge a lawyer’s confidence when you meet them. If they greet you with a firm handshake, make eye contact, and have good posture during your consultation, this is a sign that they are confident in themselves. A confident attorney should have a professional appearance and be well-spoken. They should look and talk like they know what they’re doing. If not, chances are they don’t know what they’re doing.
8) They are clear about their fees
A trustworthy criminal defense attorney will be upfront about their fees. Some lawyers will try to get more money out of you by not explaining their prices and charging you with more than you agreed to. Before hiring a defense attorney, it is crucial to get a written contract stating the terms you initially agreed upon. This ensures that the lawyer cannot charge you more than you initially decided to or refuse services that they already offered to you.
Watch out for weird pricing as well, more specifically super-low and super-high service fees. If a law firm gives you an extremely inexpensive estimate, it can mean one of two things. Either the defense attorney you’re hiring is has a bad reputation or that they will hit you with a bunch of hidden fees later on. Both cases aren’t good for the defendant, so it is recommended that you stay away from law firms with low costs. On the other hand, you should also be skeptical of firms with extremely high prices. Ask yourself, “Am I getting my money’s worth out of hiring this lawyer?” Chances are, you might not be. Many law firms will charge higher prices for their services if they are more well-known, regardless of their success rate.
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Kaila Ohsowski was born and raised right outside of Detroit, Michigan, as a young adult she decided to move to Chicago to pursue an education. She is now a student at Loyola University Chicago studying Pre-Law and Criminal Justice. She even received the Dean’s Scholarship upon entrance into Loyola for her outstanding academic performance. As an aspiring criminal defense attorney, she hopes to help those who are wrongfully accused within the criminal justice system. Kaila has always been an outstanding writer and has received praise for her writing skills from many of her instructors. In her free time, she loves to unwind with friends and family, and listen to music.