If you or a loved one ever face criminal charges, there's no doubt that you will experience a tremendous amount of anxiety. And, in the midst of your distress, you'll need to select a criminal defense attorney. The urgency of your situation may hinder your ability to give careful consideration to finding the right attorney to represent you or your family member.
All practicing attorneys are educated in a variety of areas of law, and regardless of whether you live in Bothell, Washington or Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, all licensed attorneys will meet the requirements set forth by your state. That doesn't mean, however, that every attorney has experience in handling criminal defense. Here, then, are tips to help you select the criminal defense attorney that will best serve you or your loved one.
1. Look for a Team, Rather than an Individual
Although many law firms employ a business strategy that calls for assigning a single lawyer to each case, this is often not the best approach to criminal defense. For example, when the assigned attorney is working on another case, out of the office, or on vacation, you won't be able to reach her or him. In addition, since even an attorney with considerable experience isn't well versed in every situation, your case may suffer. Further, those who are prosecuting your case have a whole team of experts at their disposal; you should have a team on your side as well.
Ideally, you should select a law firm that works as a team. A former prosecutor and a former public defender, for example, would bring distinct perspectives to your case. In addition, the attorneys should have access to investigators and experts who will work on your behalf.
2. Look for Specific, Relevant Experience
Just as you wouldn't consult a mechanic if you needed your house painted, you shouldn't hire attorneys that focus on class action suits when you need lawyers who will mount your criminal defense. Find a law firm that concentrates on just a few types of legal matters, including criminal defense. For example, you might look for attorneys that have experience handling DUI, traffic ticket defense, probation violation hearings, and general criminal defense.
3. Get an Assurance of Trial Preparation
Often, criminal defense cases are plea bargained or settled out of court. Attorneys know this, so many law firms will agree to represent you but will never prepare for a potential trial. The result may be a cost savings to you, but such a move may cost you more in the long run. A law firm that prepares for trial is in a much better bargaining position than one that doesn't. When prosecutors know that your attorney is fully prepared to go to trial, you'll be more likely to get a favorable plea bargain or even to have your charges dismissed entirely.
4. Obtain the Fees in Writing
When you don't understand the basis for legal fees, or when an attorney charges by the hour with no limit in place, you can find yourself in financial ruin. On the other hand, you do get what you pay for when it comes to criminal defense matters. Find the balance between the quality of your lawyers and the fees they charge. The best way to do this is to find a law firm that operates on a fixed price (including a trial), and that openly provides their fee structure. Ideally, they should offer a free consultation, at which time they will fully disclose - in writing - all possible costs and fees associated with your case.