Most criminal defense lawyers, unlike civil lawyers, don't charge for an initial consultation. Criminal lawyers tend to quote legal fees on a flat fee basis, so their time is reflected in the total fee charged. Often, fees in misdemeanor criminal cases may range from $1,500-$5,000; misdemeanor DUI cases may range from $2,500-$10,000 and felony cases from $5,000-$25,000, in State court. Federal fees are often much higher.
The Initial Consult: What to Expect from the Lawyer
Most criminal defense lawyers will want to know your prior criminal history and what you expect from the case. They will review the facts of your case and spot the legal issues and defenses that may be available. They will lay out the legal process in court and what to expect over the next few weeks/months. Most criminal defense lawyers will assess your likelihood of success and variables such as the experience of the police officers involved, the judge and the prosecutors.
Should I Bring Anything?
If you have the police report, bring it. In a DUI case, bring any court papers from any prior cases. Also, bring a copy of your traffic history. Many lawyers will ask for photos of the vehicle involved in the case, photos of the scene of the arrest and medical records that may support defenses.
"You Had me at 'Hello' "
That famous line from "Jerry Maguire" can apply to choosing your lawyer. Often, people get a feeling of confidence and trust from an attorney in their first meeting and have no qualms about retaining him. Other times, people need to sort through several lawyers to find the right one. Pick the lawyer that you want to say the things that you would say in court if you were the lawyer.
When do I Pick?
Don't feel pressured to make a decision. Any lawyer that pressures you into hiring him is not the guy you want. And shy away from the lawyer who promises a particular result in your case. That is unethical for a lawyer to do, and foolish for you to pick him.
How are Fees Paid?
Most lawyers will require a "retainer", or down-payment, to begin a criminal case. Often, that retainer will be set at anywhere from 25-50% of the total fee, and the balance can be paid off over a few weeks or months. In federal cases, lawyers will expect a substantial portion of the fee up front, since federal judges rarely let a lawyer off a cases for non-payment of legal fees.
In most cases, there are costs associated with a criminal defense case. Some of those costs are for depositons, witness fees, transcripts, process servers, Deposition rooms, copies of records, government documents and expert witnessses. These costs are generally not included in the legal fee and are billed to the client. Court fines, court costs and probation costs are not included in legal fees or expenses.