Going through criminal prosecution is a stressful time in the best of circumstances, you don’t need to go it alone. Finding a great criminal defense attorney can make all the difference. But before you hire a criminal defense attorney, there are a few things you need to consider.
1. Find Some Candidates
Start by finding a few highly rated criminal defense attorneys in your area. Check their reviews to make sure they are reputable, and double check that they are close enough to be convenient.
Once you have a few candidates, contact their offices to set up a consultation. Pay attention to how they communicate, as it can be a clue into how responsive they will be while handling your case.
2. Come Prepared
When meeting with a potential attorney, you should always bring documents that will help them assess your case. These include your bail papers and any documents related to your charges or court appearance dates that you have received from the court, any paperwork from the police if your property was searched, and a copy of the police report if available.
It’s helpful to bring a list of witnesses, victims, and other defendants. The lawyer will need to verify that no one in their office has ever represented the other parties, which could be a conflict of interest.
You should also to bring or send any documents the lawyer has requested. Some criminal defense attorneys will also ask you to fill out a questionnaire before you meet for the first time.
Remember to bring along a pencil and paper or mobile device to record any notes from the lawyer’s answers.
3. Ask About Their Background:
When meeting with a candidate to represent your case, the first thing to do is determine how much experience they have defending against similar charges. For example, if your charge is motor vehicle theft, you may not want a lawyer who mainly works with larceny suspects. Try asking these questions:
- How long have you been practicing criminal law, and how much experience do you have representing clients with similar charges
- How familiar are you with the courthouse where the case will be handled?
- How often do your clients go to trial?
4. Ask About Your Case:
To find out whether a lawyer is likely to be helpful to you, ask for their impression of your case. A good lawyer will be able to give you a sense of the road ahead. These questions may be a good starting point:
- What are your legal options, and what do they recommend?
- Do they expect anything to be challenging about your case?
- What can you expect at each stage of the process?
5. Case Management and Logistics:
The next thing to find out is how the lawyer will manage your case. You will want to know what goes on behind the scenes to ensure that there are no misunderstandings. Start with these questions:
- Do they charge an hourly rate or flat fee? What is that rate or fee? What does it include, and what does it not include?
- Will anyone else be working on your case?
- Will they personally be representing you in court?
- Who is the best person to contact if you have questions, and how can you reach them?
Making the Decision
Sometimes the decision isn’t that easy. If you’ve met with a couple of criminal lawyers and can’t decide which one to choose, ask yourself which attorney has the most experience with the charges you are facing, which one offered the most helpful advice, and whose legal fees seemed the most reasonable.
If you’re still not sure, you may want to call some former clients. Ask these people about the lawyer’s skills, what they liked and disliked about the lawyer, and whether or not they would recommend the lawyer.
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