Choosing a Criminal Defense Attorney
There might come a time when you face criminal charges that could put you behind bars. That is when you need to choose a criminal defense attorney wisely. Read below to learn how to make the right choice.
How to Choose a Criminal Defense AttorneyWhen facing a criminal charge, you have the right to legal counsel, as per the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Usually, law enforcement will question you about the case, which for many people, is the point at which they incriminate themselves. As such, it can help to have an Ohio criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to steer you away from such mistakes.
However, most people do not know where to begin their search for a competent lawyer. Below is a guide to help you get started and find the right attorney for your needs.
The Role of a Criminal Defense AttorneyCriminal defense attorneys are legal professionals who focus on defending people accused of state and federal crimes. Since they specialize in criminal law, they understand how to use constitutional guarantees to protect their clients against an unfair trial. Their responsibilities include gathering relevant information and evidence, building a strong defense for the jury, and representing the accused in court. Moreover, they have to help the client sort out their best options, which could be negotiating a plea bargain with the prosecutor or countersuing for malicious prosecution, among other legal strategies.
Tips on Finding the Right Criminal Defense LawyerChoosing the right defense lawyer could be the most critical decision you make when facing legal trouble. The attorney you choose could be the difference between carrying on with your life as normal or losing your good reputation, assets, or even your freedom. As you take on the task, here are a few things you have to remember.
Determine What You NeedDuring your search, determine first your legal needs. If you are charged with a drug crime, look for a defense attorney whose area of expertise includes drug-related offenses. Otherwise, they may provide ineffective counsel, leading to a possible conviction.
Moreover, not all attorneys can practice in federal courts—they must be admitted to the court. If your crime points to a violation of federal laws or have crossed state lines, seek an attorney licensed to work at the federal level.
Do Your ResearchWhen choosing, always have multiple options ready. A quick online search will reveal hundreds of qualified professionals in the area, so take the time to sift through the results. Read client feedback, but take these with a grain of salt. If you know someone who worked with any from your shortlist of firms, ask about their experience. Consider referrals as well—your colleague, family member, or friend may know of a reliable criminal defense lawyer who previously helped them.
Verify their credentials by checking the state bar’s website or asking the local bar association. Some states even provide reports on lawyer grievances, especially cases that resulted in disciplinary actions. It allows you to make an informed decision to go with a particular criminal defense attorney.
Set an Initial ConsultationMost law firms offer a free initial consultation, so take advantage of it to get acquainted with the assigned lawyer. It is essential that you feel comfortable with them. Otherwise, they could be difficult to work with. You can still change your lawyer at any point if you feel dissatisfied with their performance. Remember that there should be honesty at all times.
Choose Based on Your ConsiderationsSet considerations to find the right fit. For instance, you may want a criminal defense lawyer with enough courtroom experience if you go to trial. If you opt for a highly sought-after attorney, expect them to have a high caseload, which could affect their efficiency.
Questions to Ask a Potential Defense CounselWhen screening potential criminal defense attorneys, it is normal to have many questions. The best time to ask these is during the initial consultation, so prepare a list before the in-person meeting. Below are a few you can ask.
Criminal Defense ExperienceAs the client, you want to know if they can represent you well during criminal proceedings. Do not hesitate to get more information about their experience—you are hiring them, so it is only logical to ask to see if they are qualified.
• How many years of experience do you have with practicing criminal law?
• Did you pursue similar cases to mine? If yes, what were the results?
• What is the breakdown of your areas of practice?
• How often do you go to court trial with criminal charges like mine?
• Are you affiliated with professional organizations?
Your CasePeople seek criminal defense lawyers hoping for a good outcome on their criminal charges. You want to know your chances and ways to improve these.
• What existing and potential issues do you see in my case?
• Is a favorable outcome possible?
• Do I have legal options that I can explore?
• What are the best- and worst-case scenarios?
• How can I help with my case?
• What should I avoid doing that may lessen my chances of a favorable outcome?
Legal FeesHiring a criminal defense lawyer can be costly. Avoid unnecessary surprises when your billing arrives by discussing law firm fees with your legal counsel at the onset.
• How much do you charge? Is it an hourly rate or a flat fee?
• If you charge a flat fee, what does that include?
• Are there other expenses I should expect?
• Can you give me a rough estimate of the total costs?
What to Expect from Your Criminal Defense AttorneyFor a diligent defense lawyer to understand your situation, they will likely interview you during the first meeting. Do not hire an attorney who does not ask case-related questions in consultations. Most legal professionals immediately want to know the facts and circumstances surrounding the case to give an initial assessment.
Your potential criminal defense lawyer will also want to see pertinent paperwork and evidence. During the meeting, bring any pieces of evidence, police reports, and information on possible witnesses. They will need these when formulating a strategy for your case.
While recounting your experience and answering their questions, remember to be truthful to your lawyer. Withholding information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, will affect the case.