How to select right criminal defense attorney for yourself

Selecting the right criminal defense attorney for yourself or a loved one can be one of the hardest parts of any run-in with the law. It is also one of the most important. It is critical that you find a reputable attorney whom you can trust. There are several things to consider when looking for an attorney.

Determining your legals need 

1. Figure out if you need a defense attorney. If you are facing a criminal charge, no matter how minor, you should seek legal advice. Even if you decide not to hire an attorney to represent you in court, a consultation can help you to understand the charges against you. Your attorney should explain the defenses available to you, any possibilities for a plea bargain, and what your next steps would be if you were convicted.
  • If you are facing a serious charge, it is highly recommended that you have a defense attorney represent you in court.
  • For a minor charge, you can consider simply consulting an attorney before your trial.
  • To determine how serious the charge is, learn what sort of charge you are facing. A felony is the most serious type of crime. Murder and armed robbery are examples of felonies.
  • A misdemeanor is a less serious charge. Shoplifting is a common example.
  • Infractions are the least serious charge. Examples include traffic violations.

2.Research the role of a defense attorney. Criminal defense attorneys are the attorneys that represent people charged with criminal conduct or have had a lawsuit filed against them. Most attorneys specialize in either criminal or civil law. Civil cases are typically brought by an individual or company, while criminal charges are brought by local, state, or federal government.
  • Defense attorneys will help you with all legal issues related to your case. For example, he will identify key pretrial issues.
  • Your defense attorney will issue motions that can improve your situation or possibly get your case dismissed.
  • If your case goes to trial, your defense attorney is responsible for representing you in court. His objective should be to see that you receive a fair trial with a positive outcome for you.

Choosing a defense attorney 

3. Use reputable sources to find potential attorneys. If you are charged with a crime that could cause you to have a criminal record, you need someone who is an experienced legal expert. There are several ways you can begin your search for the attorney who will best meet your needs. Use the internet or visit your local library to look at a variety of resources.
  • Lawyers are often members of professional organizations. States and some major cities have criminal defense lawyer organizations. Call the organization closest to you. Some organizations have online directories or provide referral services.
  • Ask for a referral. If you regularly work with a lawyer or law office through your job, that lawyer may be able to recommend a defense attorney. If you have a friend or family member that has had to hire a defense attorney, he may be able to recommend (or warn against) a certain attorney.
  • You can also go directly to the State Bar Website and search under Certified Criminal Law Specialist in your County.

4. Calculate the cost of hiring an attorney. The cost of an attorney is generally based on how complex a case is. Attorneys will typically ask for a retainer (payment) when the defense will most likely require the bringing in of expert witnesses or if there will be extensive motions made. Attorneys have a number of ways of charging for their work. These include flat fees, hourly rates and fees for specific parts of the case.
  • Hourly rates can be the most affordable, but are also the least predictable. It is difficult to predict precisely how much time your case will take.
  • Flat fees are the most predictable but can hurt the client in cases that are complicated. Many attorneys will offer a fee agreement that offers a refundable minimum retainer but then goes up as the case goes past that amount.
  • Misdemeanor cases may cost several thousand dollars in legal fees. Felony cases generally start at $5,000 and can run much higher if the felony is very serious, such as those that involve sexual assault or homicide.

Working with your attorney 

5. Allow your attorney to lead your defense. Many people feel like they understand the law. Maybe you feel like since the case involves your future, you should have a lot of input on your case. However, it is important to remember that the legal system is intricate and complex. Your attorney understands the law better than you do.
  • You should feel comfortable with the defense strategy. But you should refrain from telling your attorney how to do his job.
  • Remember that you thoroughly reviewed his qualifications before you hired him. You likely picked someone qualified for the job.

6. Communicate openly. While it is important that you respect your attorney's methods, it is also critical that the two of you establish a good line of communication. You should ask questions about anything that you don't understand. You should also make sure that you are comfortable with his strategies and methods.
  • Honesty is also key to a good working relationship. Do not ever lie to your attorney.
  • In order to present the best possible defense, your attorney needs to have all of the facts. Remember, he is bound by confidentiality, so you don't need to worry about what you tell him.

7. Get a support system. Being charged with a crime is a very emotional experience. You will likely feel scared, frustrated, and angry. Remember that it is normal to feel these, and other, emotions.
  • Explain your situation to friends and family. Tell them you will need extra support during this process.
  • Ask someone you trust to visit your attorney with you. This might provide some extra comfort for you.
How to select right criminal defense attorney for yourself

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