Frankly, this is a pretty big issue. On the one hand, it can be critical in your case to have an attorney involved as soon as possible. On the other hand, it's important that you choose the right attorney for the job. When you are charged with a crime, you have the right to stay silent and not say anything to police until you're represented. The police officer cannot hold this against you, it is your constitutional right. Most attorneys today advertise on the internet, in the yellowbook, or through direct mail. Attorneys have an ethical duty to know how to handle your case before they take it, but you should still work with someone that seems credible. So, you want to contact attorneys right away, but you want to make sure you meet them in person. If you feel comfortable that the attorney is coming across as organized, knowledgeable, and credible, then consider hiring them. Make sure they have experience handling the type of cases you have and make sure they have malpractice insurance
How do I know if a lawyer has experience?
First, you can ask. Do not be afraid to ask any attorney how many of a certain type of case he has completed successfully or when the last time was he had a similar case. Your case can and probably will affect your life, your reputation, your criminal record, your freedom and your finances - so speak up and make sure your questions are answered. A competent and skilled attorney should have no problem divulging exactly what their experience level is.
How much should I pay?
This is the biggest question I hear every day. Ever lawyer charges different amounts and, unfortunately, you may not always get the best representation by spending the most money. There are no real rules guiding what lawyers should charge for a criminal case, so be careful. Ever lawyer should absolutely give you a written fee agreement explaining how he or she will charge you. If you have any questions about that agreement, don't sign it. As an example, our firm charges about $650 for most preliminary hearings (the first hearing in the case). Then, depending on what charges remain after that hearing, we'll give the client another flat fee for the rest of the case so they can once again choose whether to stay with us or not. Most do, and I hope that is because we try and keep our rates as fair as possible, especially in this economy. Make sure you know what you're paying for. The agreement should be easy for you to understand. If it's not, be careful signing it.
What if I think my attorney isn't doing the right stuff?
Understand that the criminal justice system doesn't always work the way it does on television. Some client expect us to be jumping up and down and screaming in the courtroom. Others expect us to be able to use political connections to create backdoor deals with the District Attorney's office. Please know that the criminal justice system is set up according to very specific procedures. If you're concerned that your attorney should have done something differently or more, please ask them to explain to you why things were done the way they were done. Very often we have people call our office complaining about their lawyer only to have to tell them that their lawyer is handling the case just the right way. There are rarely magic bullets in the criminal justice system. If you're going to win, often you have to go through the proper procedures and fight the right way. There is a time and a place for each argument, not when it's convenient for you.