6 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer
There are several different questions to ask before hiring a criminal defense lawyer. You can learn more about what to bring up by clicking here.
In the 2018 fiscal year, about 80,000 individuals were defendants in criminal cases. Of the 80,000, only 1,600 or 2% went to trial. Most of the defendants whose cases proceeded to trial were found guilty of their criminal offenses.
Criminal cases attract heavier penalties and fines than in civil cases. That’s because most courts treat civil cases as a direct offense to the state. That’s why if you have a criminal case, you best hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to have your back in court.
There’s no shortage of criminal defense lawyers, regardless of your state of residence. However, finding the right one will be instrumental in winning your criminal cases. As such, you should take your time and perform due diligence before settling on a criminal lawyer to represent you in court.
Finding a good criminal lawyer shouldn’t be a problem if you know the right questions to ask. These questions will give you an idea of the type of criminal lawyer you’re dealing with. In this piece, we’ll be highlighting a few questions to ask a criminal defense attorney.
1. Who Will Handle My Case?
It may sound simple, but it’s absolutely critical you know exactly who will be handling your case and in what capacity. Large firms often hand off cases to junior lawyers or paralegals who do the heavy lifting or may even represent you in court. On the opposite side, independent firms with one or two main lawyers may bring in outside lawyers to assist with your case. Either way, these practices make it difficult to pin down the exact lawyer that will be handling your case. As such, it’s important to establish from the very first meeting who will be your lawyer.
Any reputable attorney will lay out a strategy for your case and make it clear who will be working with you. Don’t fall for the “bait and switch” practice of large firms where the lawyer you meet isn’t the person handling your case. Direct communication is essential for a good outcome. If the lawyer you meet isn’t the one handling your case or if there are other players involved you don’t know, there’s a high likelihood of miscommunication.
The first question you should ask is the exact lawyer who is in charge of your case. Establish rapport with that attorney and review their strategy before you actually set foot in court.
2. Do You Offer a Free Consultation for the First Meeting?
The initial consultation is a face-to-face meeting with the lawyer, where you’ll get to understand more about your case. This consultation could take no longer than five minutes, but it gives you a firm understanding of your offense and your chances in courts.
This first consultation isn’t only about your case; you’ll also get to learn more about the firm and whether they’re up to the task. By the end of the consultation, you’ll likely have concluded whether the firm is right for your case.
Many experienced criminal defense lawyers or law firms offer free initial consultations as an incentive to attract prospective clients. If you find a lawyer that doesn’t, then you better look for one that does. A free consultation shows how committed the lawyer or law firm is to serving their clients.
3. How Much Is the Legal Fee and the Billing Structure?
Time to address the elephant in the room, and that’s how much you’ll pay the lawyer. For most people, the legal fee is a sensitive topic. Even if you’ve never set foot in a courtroom, you know how expensive lawyers can be.
On the one hand, you want a lawyer that will give nothing but short of his/her best to win the case, but on the other hand, you don’t want to pay too much for the lawyer. If you want a good lawyer that will increase your chances of winning the case, then you’ll probably have to dig deep into your pockets.
As such, you’ll need to ask the lawyers about the legal fees before you commit to their services. That way, you can know whether you can afford the lawyer in the first place. Apart from that, also ask the lawyer about their billing structure.
The billing structure is how the lawyer charges their clients. Some lawyers might charge an hourly fee while others might have a flat fixed rate. It’s essential to ask your lawyer about their billing structure for your financial organization.
Legal fees shouldn’t stress you too much. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you may qualify for a court-appointed attorney. What’s more, legal fees are negotiable with most criminal attorneys.
4. What’s Your Experience Handling Criminal Cases?
One thing you should never overlook is the lawyer’s experience in handling such types of cases. Your entire future may be in their hands. Like any other profession, experience leads to expertise. It stands to reason that you’ll be better off with an experienced lawyer is well-versed with criminal case litigation and the entire court process.
However, this doesn’t mean you should write off a brand new attorney. Brand new attorneys can still win your case despite their inexperience. However, if you don’t want to take a chance, you’re better off with an experienced lawyer.
The downside to hiring experienced lawyers is that they cost more than newer attorneys. For most people, experienced attorneys are worth every penny.
5. What’s Your Criminal Law Specialty?
Criminal law is a very broad facet of law, and it’s a good idea to ask about your lawyer’s criminal law specialty. Not every criminal law attorney handles all types of cases. Even if the lawyer can handle that particular case, if it’s not his/her specialty, your chances of winning the case are very slim.
Some lawyers have specialized in violent crimes, while others center on theft-related crimes. Make sure you get a lawyer that specializes in the crime you’re charged with. That way, you can at least have a winning chance when it’s time for your arraignment.
6. Will You Keep Constant Communication?
Some lawyers are just terrible at communicating with their clients. You don’t want such kind of lawyers when you’re facing a serious criminal offense. Not communicating doesn’t do much for your anxiety or help with the case’s progress.
Ask the lawyer whether they can maintain constant communication throughout the entire legal process. Testimonials can give you a good idea of the lawyer’s communication capability. If the lawyer can’t, then you better find yourself another lawyer.
Ask the Right Questions for the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you ask the right questions and get the correct answers, finding a competent criminal defense lawyer will be a breeze. Just make sure you explore all your options before settling on your lawyer. Hopefully, you’ll get the right lawyer and sail through your case.
The right lawyer might just be a call away. For professional and expedient criminal defense lawyers, contact us today and we’ll sort you out.