What if I pay my private criminal defense lawyer $2000 for a retainer fee and the prosecutor never files charges? Do I get my retainer fee back? Should I wait until the prosecutor file charges first before hiring a private criminal defense lawyer?
It's a good idea to have a lawyer on board as soon as possible. Your attorney can start gathering evidence and negotiating with the DA to prevent charges from being filed.
(It's a really bad idea for a suspect to try to collect witness statements alone. There can be allegations of witness intimidation or forgery. That's a job best left to a licensed private investigator working under an attorney's direction.)
Whether you get a refund depends on the language of your written fee agreement.
If you paid a "true retainer," you are not entitled to a refund. Although people often misuse the word, a retainer is a fee to ensure the attorney is available to take your case. For instance, the lawyer couldn't accept another case that could pose a conflict with yours.
Some attorneys take an advance payment to their trust account, and bill against those funds on an hourly basis. Other lawyers take a flat fee in advance, which covers certain specified services.
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That depends on what your fee agreement says. Many times a lawyer is retained "pre-filing" to track the case before it is filed, or to discuss it with the DA and possibly negotiate a settlement or rejection. Look to your fee agreement and/or discuss it with your attorney.
Dependa on the terms of your fee agreement. Bear in mind the prosecution has until the statute of limitations expires to file charges which is a minimum of one year and at least three years for felony offenses. You may request an accounting of the work performed by the attorney and reasonable refund if the entire fee has not been earned, but it all begins with the nature of your fee agreement.
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