Being charged with a crime carries a heavy emotional toll. The best way to get through this situation and secure your freedom is to choose the right criminal defense attorney.
While time is of the essence, choosing the right person to defend you is crucial. Here are nine tips for finding the right criminal defense attorney for your case.
1. Start Looking Right Away
According to columbuscriminaldefenseattorney.com, the best time to ask for an attorney is the moment you know that you’re not free to go during a police interaction. When you reach out to an attorney, you need someone who is available to start right away.
The first lawyer you contact may not be the one who carries your case through to the finish line. However, it’s important to have that advice and guidance from the get-go.
2. Choose Someone with Relevant Experience
When you choose an attorney, you want someone who specializes in your type of case. Don’t choose a jack-of-all-trades. Instead, pick someone who specifically handles cases pertaining to your charges or in criminal law.
If you’re looking at a lawyer’s website and don’t see anything pertaining to criminal law, look elsewhere. There are significant differences between family law, business law, and criminal law— you want someone who is well versed in the latter.
If you have contact with a law firm for a different type of legal advice, feel free to reach out to them for a recommendation. Just because a lawyer you’ve used in the past doesn’t specialize in criminal law, doesn’t mean they don’t have a trusted colleague who does.
3. Choose Someone with Geographical Experience
The type of criminal defense lawyer you will need greatly depends on the nature of the charges. If you’ve broken a state law, you’ll want someone with state experience. If you’ve broken a federal law, you’ll require someone with federal experience.
It’s also important to choose someone who has worked with the local courts before. These lawyers have a rapport with the local prosecution, as well as the judges and DA. This gives them valuable insights about how to approach a case and what options are available to you when negotiating a deal.
4. Check Their Reputation and Track Record
Take some time to review your attorney’s reputation and track record. It’s important to consider how often their defendants win, but also how they’re perceived. Ask for referrals and look beyond online reviews, going as far as to reach out to the local State Bar.
It’s also important to consider how people were treated as clients. Ask for referrals and testimonials when making a decision.
5. Look for Someone Realistic
While it’s important to feel comfortable and confident, you don’t want a lawyer who makes promises. Even when you have great odds, your attorney should always be realistic. There are endless variables that can determine how a case plays out in the courts.
Choose an attorney who doesn’t sugarcoat the road ahead for you. If you have a lawyer who guarantees that you’ll win, that’s not the right lawyer.
6. Clarify the Fee Structure
Take time to clarify the fee schedule and structure before hiring a lawyer. Your attorney should be open and transparent about what you can expect to pay, what you’ll be paying for, and what events could increase those costs. It should also be clear how often you’ll be paying and what options are available to you.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the most expensive lawyer is the best. Many lawyers are understanding and passionate about what they do, outsourcing or delegating costly work to other team members to save you money. Consider value over cost.
7. Look at the Whole Team
As mentioned above, when you hire a criminal defense attorney, you hire a legal team. Their team might consist of other legal professionals and assistants. Take time to evaluate the whole team and understand who will be working on your case.
If your attorney doesn’t have a team in place, ask questions about coverage. Who is keeping you updated when your lawyer is on vacation or sick? How does your case move forward if an unexpected event occurs that takes your attorney away?
If possible, request a tour of the legal offices of your attorney. Get a sense of the team structure and how many people are working on cases at a given time. Take in the atmosphere of the offices, noting if it looks organized and well-run. Note if people look unhappy or unwelcoming, or if things are looking shoddy and rundown. Sometimes touring an office is the best way to get insights when choosing a defense attorney.
8. Look for Someone Responsive
When going through a criminal trial, you’ll want an attorney that responds to you as soon as possible. They should be clear in managing expectations, identifying how long you can expect it to take for them to get back to you. Ideally, you’ll have someone who can touch base within 24 hours of receiving a call.
Keep in mind that it won’t always be your lawyer who contacts you. If they have a legal team in place to screen calls and convey messages, that’s still a valid way to communicate. The important part is that you’re making contact and being acknowledged.
9. Trust Your Instincts
Trust your instincts when choosing an attorney. Do you feel comfortable sharing information with them? Do they come off as too confident or not confident enough? If it doesn’t feel like a good match, trust your instincts, and keep looking.
While going through this process, remember that your attorney isn’t meant to be your friend. Their job is to guide you through the legal process and get you the best possible outcome based on your situation. Someone who is overly friendly and comforting may or may not be right for you. Alternatively, someone who is cold and calculating will appeal to some defendants but not others. Only you can decide which approach you need.
Use these nine tips to find the right defense attorney to fight for your freedom.