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Choosing a criminal defense attorney in CA

Los Angeles, CA |

I need a criminal defense attorney in CA for an Assault w/Deadly Weapon and an Indecent Exposure charges. I've used Avvo ratings and have started meeting with attorneys to decide, but how do I get an truly unbiased opinion to help me choose. Obviously, the choose is important as these are serious charges. What should I be looking for? And what questions should I be asking to help me decide?

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Attorney answers 4


1. The lawyer must care about the result and the client’s well-being:
This may seem obvious but it is important for lawyers to remember how important a case is to the person charged with a crime. Criminal charges can bring intense stress in all areas of a persons life, including professional, financial and family life. This rule applies whether it is a simple DUI matter or a serious fraud or homicide allegation.

2. Get to know the client and his or her life situation and background:
I cannot tell you the number of times that the unique facts of a persons life, or stresses which they are under, strike a note of sympathy with judges when negotiating the outcome of a case, or at sentencing. More importantly these facts can make a big difference with a jury should a person accused with a crime chose to testify in his or her own defense.

3. Work quickly to try to get the person out of jail:
Needless to say, if a person is in jail and hires a criminal lawyer, they are expecting the lawyer to make every effort to gain their release from jail. There are several things that can be done by the criminal defense attorney to make this happen, including motions to set or reduce bail, motions for release on their own recognizance, or, in the case of a San Francisco criminal lawyer or San Francisco criminal defense attorney, a request for supervised release. For some people that own property, a motion to post real estate in lieu of cash is a good way to avoid paying a ten percent premium to a bail bondsman.

4. Consider the effects of a criminal case on a person’s profession, or future profession:
Many convictions can result in the loss of business or professional licenses. Any trade that requires a state license, including hairdressers, nurses, landscapers, and many others, will be in jeopardy if you face criminal charges. Knowing what you are able to accept as a part of a plea bargain, or if you are able to plea bargain at all, is critical to making the right choice in your case. Any criminal defense attorney, whether a San Francisco criminal lawyer, Oakland lawyer, Hayward lawyer or other, should be aware of this.

5. Remember confidentiality:
It is important for a criminal lawyer to understand the privacy of the client. This is especially so when dealing with family members of the person charged with a crime. Family may mean well when asking questions, but unless the client authorizes the attorney to talk about it, anything said about the case should remain private and confidential.

6. Consider any immigration consequences:
Anyone who is not a citizen must be especially careful when facing criminal charges. Any conviction or even an admission without entry of a judgment, can result in deportation, exclusion from re-admission or denial of citizenship. This is unfortunately a highly misunderstood area of the law by many criminal lawyers. Understanding these rules is critical whether you are dealing with a San Francisco DUI attorney, San Francisco criminal lawyer, San Francisco criminal defense attorney, Oakland DUI lawyer or Hayward attorney.

7. Communication with the client:
Part of what a person hires a criminal lawyer for is to understand what is happening in the case as it goes along. A San Francisco criminal defense attorney must talk about it with the client on a regular basis.

8. Investigation:
In most cases the client should allow the criminal defense attorney to hire an investigator to interview witnesses. If the police did it to gather evidence against you, why wouldn’t you want to do it in your own defense. It costs money but it would be “penny wise and pound foolish” to skimp on this part of your defense.

9. Legal research and motions:
Any San Francisco criminal defense attorney must be sure to understand the “elements” of an offense, that is, what the prosecutor has to try to prove in order to get a conviction.

10. Trial
Be courageous enough to try the cases that merit trial.


To augment Mr. Kamen's advice above, in my opinion, nothing counts like experience. Don't just look at how long someone has been practicing law, but look at WHAT they have been doing. If you are not sure who to choose, choose someone with experience in the court where your case is to be heard. Also, you should pick someone who has "been there and done that". If the attorney has a good deal of experience in trying cases, he or she will not only be well versed at trial but will know whether or not trial is a good idea in your particular case.
Good Luck.

David C. Beyersdorf
2110 North Winery Avenue, Suite #101
Fresno, CA 93703
(559) 252-7000


It is very difficult to find unbiased information about attorneys. This is one of the reasons avvo is growing in popularity. Here are some other sources of information:
Look up thet attorney's Better Business Bureau Rating. The Better Business Bureau of the Southland provides a letter grade rating for all businesses in Los Angeles County. The easiest way to search for a specific attorney is to search by the phone number of the lawyer's office. As the BBB is a fairly large clearinghouse for business complaints, it is likely that if the lawyer has treated people poorly, the BBB will eventually hear about it.
You should check every lawyer's record with the State Bar of California at you can learn: How long has the lawyer practiced? Is the lawyer a certified specialist in criminal law? Has the lawyer been disciplined?

You should consider attorneys who are experienced and have a good business reputation. A Certified Specialist Credential is a good indication that the attorney has devoted his or her practice to criminal law and is highly knowledgeable. You should speak with the attorney and ask questions that are important to you.

Be wary of firms that claim to be the state or country's largest criminal defense firm. These organizations may have good lawyers, but they have very high overhead, and may charge significantly more money than other law firms. Make sure that at the meeting, you meet with the actual attorney who will represent you in your case.


To add to the helpful suggestions of the other lawyers --

Once you are able to get some interviews or consultations with a lawyer, You should ask the lawyer how many jury trials he or she has conducted? (Believe it or not, some criminal lawyers have not had one jury trial in 10 years because they plead all their clients to something! I know a few like that and it is scary.) Ultimately, if the evidence in your case warrants it, you should go to trial and you should have an attorney who is an experienced trial counsel. Or, you should have an attorney that has a pretty good trial win/loss record -- that may be intimidating to the DA on the case and he/she may be willing to settle the matter just because that DDA may not want to go to trial against the defense attorney you have chosen.

Like Mr. Rose suggested, the lawyer you interview with should be the lawyer that accompanies you in court. Some large law firms (like in our county) may send in a very inexperienced lawyer. For what you are facing, you need an experienced aggressive lawyer. I am guessing that your indecent exposure charge may carry with it a sex registration requirement, depending on the exact Penal Code section as charged. (?) For that kind of case, you have a lot to lose. Therefore, it is well worth it to find someone who has a lengthy career of trying cases.

If you are still completely unsure, and you don't know anyone who might give objective opinions about local attorneys, try a 'google search' of some names you may have received, try a search of the local newspaper and look in current and archived news stories, or go to the courthouse where your case will be heard and find a criminal courtroom where there are many lawyers. You can see the actual lawyers in action there, get their names and business cards, and do further research of those lawyers that looked and sounded good to you.

Good luck --Laura