There are many times we find ourselves in need of legal advice. You might be facing a traffic ticket or a divorce. However, in the case of criminal charges, you need the best possible defense attorney because you cannot afford to take the risk of going to prison. Yet most of us have no idea what to look for in a criminal defense lawyer.
We interviewed a couple of criminal defense attorneys to help us write this article. With their help we were able to come up with a few key points you should consider when you are trying to identify the criminal lawyer for defense.
Specialization or generalization
Don’t ask an attorney who normally handles traffic tickets and dog bite cases to be your criminal defense attorney. Their odds of success in defending you are directly proportional to their amount of experience with criminal cases. Furthermore, they need to have experience dealing with the charges you’re facing. There’s a significant difference between how money laundering cases and rape charges would be handled. Ask the attorney how many cases like yours they have handled and what percentage they win. It doesn’t matter if they win 90 percent of their cases if they’re all drunk driving cases and you’re charged with tax fraud.
“Even in criminal defense you have attorneys who specialize in DUI, Drug charges, sex crimes or federal criminal charges. Choose the most experienced depending on the severity of your case and do not be cheap when you are looking for the best and most experienced.”
Experience is different from expertise. Someone could theoretically graduate law school with their JD and then set up a criminal law practice. Ask the attorney how long they’ve practiced law. Then ask how long they’ve been handling criminal cases. You don’t want to work with someone who was recently focused on personal injury cases. Don’t forget to find an attorney’s AVVO or Google Maps page to see what other clients have to say.
On top of this, you want to work with an attorney familiar with the local courts. They may alter their strategy based on the prosecutor or judge assigned to hear your case. Ask the attorney what experience they’ve had with the local courts and what you should expect to happen.
“When I have a client in my office, I sit down and take the time to make them understand the reality of their situation. If they hire me, I will fight tooth and nail for their freedom. I also explain every possible outcome and how I am going to work the case. Try to find an attorney who has a track record of winning. Online reviews are some of the best. Referrals are even better.”
Many people think you should select an attorney based on the level of empathy they seem to have. You may want that type of emotional support when you’re going through a divorce or custody dispute. However, their level of communication and their approach to client interactions is more important. You can’t wait several days for an attorney to get back to you when the police want to question you today. Ask them how often they’ll update you regarding the case and what they will do to keep you informed if you’re in prison. Read online reviews by prior clients to find out how fast the attorney responded to calls and concerns. If you try to arrange a face to face meeting and can’t get through, that’s a red flag in its own right.
Another factor to consider is how they adjust their communication style to work with you. You can judge this during the initial interview. Do they take the time to explain terms you’re unfamiliar with? Or are they dismissive when you have questions? If the attorney is vague or reluctant to share information, you don’t want to work with them. Someone willing to hear your side of the story and answer all the questions you have is almost certainly the right attorney for you, assuming they have the necessary experience and expertise.
Some additional reading for anyone looking for a criminal defense attorney