There are all kinds of reasons why you might have to meet with a criminal defense lawyer. DUI and domestic violence charges are what many people find themselves facing if they haven’t previously needed the services of a criminal defense lawyer, but other common types of criminal behavior include fraud, theft, trespassing, assault, drug-related charges, sexual offenses, and even more serious crimes like arson and murder. And within each category there are a number of levels of severity in the charges that may be imposed. As a layperson, and likely someone that has found yourself on the wrong end of a big mistake, you may be somewhat bewildered to find yourself in the position of being charged with criminal activity. So it’s in your best interest to hire an attorney that is capable of defending you against the charges you’re facing. But you need to make sure you find the right legal representation. Here are a few things to consider when you start looking for a criminal defense lawyer.
- Your alleged crimes. Finding the right attorney will require some time and effort on your part, but you can definitely save yourself some hassle and narrow down your options by limiting your search to criminal lawyers that specialize in the type of crime you’ve been accused of. Because the field of criminal defense is so widespread and complex, it only makes sense that attorneys would become experts in just one type of criminal case (or perhaps a handful of related case types). So if you’re looking at DUI charges, you don’t want to meet with an attorney that specializes in domestic violence cases, just for example.
- Referrals. You may or may not know others who have found themselves facing the same type of criminal charges that you have been accused of. Generally speaking, most people don’t like to make it known that they have been charged with drug possession, spousal abuse, or grand theft auto. But if you ask around you may be able to get trusted referrals to the types of criminal defense lawyers you’re looking for. At the very least you can request a list of references for any attorney you have a consultation with as a way to get an idea of how previous clients rate their service.
- Track record. It’s important to select an attorney that is likely to win your case. And while most attorneys will give you an idea of your chances of winning from the get-go, you still want to find legal representation that comes backed by a strong history of wins with cases like yours. You can ask the attorneys you consult with to provide this information, although it is also a matter of public record. If a lawyer works mainly locally (within your state of residence) you can simply call the state court or the state bar, where such records may be kept. Unfortunately, documentation of this information varies by state, so the easiest way is to simply ask the attorney. But you can also sign up for a membership with PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), although information may be limited.
- Cost. This is an important part of hiring any type of service provider, but considering how expensive most attorneys are, you really need to determine the potential costs involved in your criminal defense before you hire a lawyer. Some attorneys may offer a flat rate for certain types of cases, but more likely you will have to pay by the hour (or in smaller increments of time). If you’re looking to cut costs, a good lawyer may offer you opportunities to save money by collecting relevant documents or filing paperwork with the courts, just for example.
- Availability. Before you can hire a criminal defense attorney, you need to make sure the professional you’re interested in is available. This not only means that there is room in his/her schedule, but also that you’re able to reach him/her with questions and concerns and that you receive a call back in a timely manner. Since you likely have little background in criminal law you may need someone to hold your hand throughout the process. And you want a criminal defense lawyer that is available.