Facing criminal charges can seem overwhelming. You do not need to face them alone. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer puts someone on your side who understands the law and fights to protect your legal rights.
However, before hiring a criminal defense lawyer, it can be helpful to consider these six things:
1. Experience Handling Your Type of Case
Most criminal defense lawyers only practice criminal law. However, some lawyers accept a variety of cases.
First, you want to make sure that the lawyer focuses on criminal defense law. Focusing on one area of law gives an attorney substantial experience and knowledge in that law.
Second, search for an attorney who specializes in the criminal charges you face. For example, if you are charged with DWI, look for an attorney who has extensive experience handling DWI cases.
2. Attorneys Licensed in Your State
An attorney must be licensed to practice in Texas to represent you in a Texas criminal court.
It is generally better to hire a local criminal defense lawyer than a nationwide law firm. It makes it more convenient for you to meet with your attorney if the law firm is local. Also, local attorneys are familiar with the courts and judges that will handle your criminal case.
Prosecutors are also familiar with the reputations of local attorneys. They know which attorneys are willing to take the matter to trial if that is in their clients’ best interest versus lawyers who always settle cases to avoid trials.
3. Experienced Trial Attorneys
Ask the lawyer how much experience he has trying cases in court and his success rate. Most criminal cases are settled without a trial. However, if your case goes to court, you want to be sure that your lawyer is an experienced trial attorney.
No attorney can give you a guarantee. Juries are unpredictable. However, an experienced trial lawyer understands the best way to present cases to convince a jury that reasonable doubt exists.
Also, experienced trial lawyers know when it is best to settle a criminal charge instead of going to court. For example, if the evidence against you for drug charges is substantial and convincing, an experienced trial attorney will tell you that it is best to negotiate a plea deal that might avoid the most severe penalties for a drug crime.
4. Federal Crimes Attorney
Handling cases in federal court is different from handling cases in state court. Federal laws and procedures may not be the same as state court. If you face federal charges, make sure that you hire an attorney with experience practicing before federal courts.
5. Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
Before you hire a criminal defense lawyer, always discuss the attorneys’ fees and costs in detail. You need to understand how much the attorney will charge to represent you if the case settles in a plea deal or if the case goes to trial. Most criminal lawyers charge by the hour.
The cost of a criminal defense lawyer may seem expensive. However, you need to consider what you are paying for before deciding whether to hire an attorney.
You are fighting for your freedom. Depending on the criminal charges, you could face decades in prison if a jury or judge says that you are guilty of the crime. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer could mean the difference in beating the charges, negotiating a reduced sentence, or serving a lengthy term behind bars.
6. Private Attorney vs. Public Defender
If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint a public defender upon your request. Most public defenders are good attorneys who fight for the best interests of their clients.
However, they handle any case assigned to them, so they may not have experience in the specific criminal charges you face. Also, public defenders are often overworked. They have huge caseloads.
If you can afford a private criminal defense lawyer, hire one. A private attorney has more resources and time to devote to your case. You can also choose a criminal defense lawyer who focuses on criminal cases like your case, such as domestic violence, sex crimes, theft crimes, or assault.
If you are arrested, try to remain calm. Resisting arrest only results in additional criminal charges.
Do not talk to the police. It is best to remain silent except for asking for a criminal defense lawyer. Talking to the police without an attorney is rarely in a person’s best interest.