Being that this is my first offense, I would like to hire an attorney to represent me in court to fight this going on my record. This was completely out of my character to steal however I was just getting out of an abusive relationship so I simply was not in the right state of mind and unfortunately I broke the law. Ive since turned a new page thanks for therapy and being close to finishing college so I would really like to put an end to this case and pray is it dismissed. Ive contacted a few law offices in the Martinez, CA area and every attorney is asking for $1500 to represent me in court however is it not possible to hire by the hour assuming this is a small case and likely wont take more than a few hours in total??
Thanks for the help
You can certainly ask them if that would work... But ...
We can't always control how long it will take in court. Sometimes we get stick waiting for the judge to take the bench, waiting for the prosecutor. Waiting for paperwork... And what if it takes an extra court appearance to do something that is beneficial to you?
Flat fees typically work out better for you and are more fair, but you can set up whatever arrangement works between you and your lawyer.
The above answer is for general information only and is based on the information you posted. Every case is fact dependent, so to get a thorough analysis of your situation, you will need to consult face to face with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the incident took place. Do not conclusively rely on any information posted online when deciding what to do about your case.
You can probably find an attorney to represent you by the hour, but the fees may be much higher in the end than the $1,500 quoted.
If the attorney agrees to only bill you for his time in court, his hourly fee is going to be fairly high to account for the letters he must write before appearing in court to the police department for the police report, to the prosecutor (under Penal Code section 1054 and Maryland v. Brady) and to the victim for a loss prevention invoice. If he prepares a motion for civil compromise, which might take two hours to draft, but does not charge you for it and instead just accounts for it in his hourly fee for being in court, the hourly fee could be very, very high.
I know that shoplifting cases are "loss leaders," as are DUI's. I generally put in a ton of time on such cases and the fees are low, making my hourly fee quite low. So be careful about hiring an attorney on an hourly basis.
I would opt for a block fee to give you certainty.
As Mr. Dane indicated, you can always ask to be billed hourly. However, keep in mind that the flat fees are usually an indicator how much time is anticipated for working on the case, in order to get a good result.
Hourly billing may seem better, but it's not always the case. For hourly billing, most attorney will require payment up front of more then enough funds to cover the time they expect to take on the case. For example, if they bill at $250/hour and they anticipate it will take 4 hours. The total their would be $1,000. But they may require the $1,500 be paid and deposited into a trust account to make sure they are covered in case they go over.
You also need to consider that it could be more expensive then the $1,500 flat rate....after the first hearing alone. Depending on how the hourly is structured, and what the hourly rate is. If someone is charging $400/hour, they will reach more then $1,500 in 4 hours of service. That could easily be reached at the first court hearing. Second, most of the work doesn't come in court. It comes in the preparation for court. What if some sort of motion needs to be filed? You will be looking at extra time to research and wrote the motion, and then argue it in court.
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You can always ask- but in the end you might pay more. How many times will you go to court? What will be the waiting time? Driving time?
ANDREW ROBERTS CRIMINAL AND TRAFFIC TICKET DEFENSE ATTORNEY
I echo my colleagues, but, in the end, if you cannot afford an attorney, you should seek the services of the public defender. In the absence of that, you should try to work out a flat fee arrangement with an attorney you can trust---that usually will work out better and more affordable for you than an hourly fee.
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Hourly billing will not be in your interest in this type of case which will require attorney appearances. I think you should reach out to additional attorneys who will do the case for less money. A petty theft case is serious, all criminal matters are, but it is not usually an exceedingly complex matter. There are attorneys who can meet your budget. Best of luck.
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