Written by attorney Domenic John Lombardo

10 Things to Know Before Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

An essential component of a lawyer's experience is familiarity with your type of case and detailed knowledge of local courtroom judges, prosecutors and practices. This knowledge will translate into better results. What follows is a how-to guide for hiring a criminal lawyer.

  1. The attorney must have experience handling your type of case. Ask your attorney about his or her experience, education, and familiarity with your type of case.
  2. The attorney must be familiar with the judges and the local prosecutors that will be involved in your case. Local personalities and practices can affect how issues are resolved in your matter.
  3. The attorney should be able to clearly explain the court process. The attorney should provide you with an understanding of what he or she may be able to accomplish at each stage of the proceedings.
  4. More than 90% of cases settle before trial either by plea bargain, diversion or dismissal of charges. The attorney should be thoroughly familiar with alternative sentencing arrangements and be able to clearly discuss how to possibly avoid jail and prison. An ethical lawyer will never use scare tactics or play hide-the-ball when discussing a case.
  5. Your defense attorney must have jury trial experience. An attorney who doesn't try cases will have difficulty providing you with clear advice on the risks and consequences of taking or rejecting a plea agreement.
  6. Ask the attorney how he or she measures success in their practice. Ask how he or she keeps abreast of legal developments and what organizations or groups that lawyer belongs to.
  7. Different attorneys will often quote different fees for the same case. Most criminal defense lawyers in San Diego charge flat fees or a retainer that has a non-refundable component. This arrangement does lead to different quotes for the same case.
  8. The attorney should be able to explain what ancillary fees may be necessary to your defense, for example, investigation, forensic testing, exhibits, paralegal work, etc.
  9. The court will appoint a free attorney to those people unable to afford counsel. Local indigent defense groups have some of the best attorneys in town.
  10. An ethical attorney will never disparage other attorneys or the Public Defenders.

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