So you’re facing criminal charges and you’re not sure what to do next. Should you try to defend yourself? According to the legal experts, there are very few cases in which a criminal defendant may do well defending him or herself.
What that means is that you’re going to need to find a criminal defense attorney to represent you. However, choosing criminal defense attorneys isn’t as simple as going online and searching, “attorneys near me.”
If you’re in a position where you need a criminal defense attorney but don’t know where to look, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to walk you through the process and make sure your bases are covered.
Read on for seven factors you should always consider when choosing criminal defense attorneys.
- Understand What You’ve Been Charged With
All attorneys go to law school but that doesn’t mean that they have an in-depth understanding of all sides of the law. You wouldn’t hire a civil defense attorney for a criminal case. You shouldn’t hire a criminal defense attorney who doesn’t specialize in your particular kind of case, either.
Make sure you understand what you’ve been charged with. Narrow down your search based on those specific charges.
- Don’t Ignore a Bad First Impression
When you’re securing a criminal law attorney, you want to work with someone you respect. If an attorney is making a bad first impression–pushing off your case, ignoring your story, treating you as if you’ve already lost in court–don’t ignore it. Keep looking until you find an attorney that you mesh with and that makes a strong first impression.
A good attorney should show an investment in your case from the moment you ask for a case evaluation. They should be able to lay out for you what your case will look like in court and what you may need to prepare for. They should also have strong communication skills, something you can assess whether you’re familiar with the law or not.
- Look for Local Experience
If you’ve ever dealt with the criminal court system before, you probably already know that locality makes a difference. Laws may be the same from one county to the next. That doesn’t mean that the way they’re interpreted remains the same from one judge to the next.
Work with a lawyer who knows your local court system. This local experience can give them an edge when making deals or even having your charges revoked.
- Check Reviews and Ratings
There are plenty of resources and review websites that can give you a different look at your attorney. You don’t want to just take their word for it that they’re good at what they do. Seek out the reviews from previous clients to get a sense of how they’ve done in the past.
You can also dig a little deeper into your attorney’s standing in the legal community. If they are well-regarded by other attorneys, judges, and so forth, you can feel confident about their ability to defend you.
- Assess the Legal Team, Not Just the Attorney
A lot goes on behind the scenes in a criminal defense case. It’s not all about what happens in the courtroom or how your attorney presents your case to the judge and jury. In fact, the vast majority of what goes into your case is put together by your attorney’s legal team, which means you’ll need to work with a strong one.
If possible, ask for an in-person case evaluation before you sign any contracts. Ask for a tour of the law firm and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the legal team’s experience, background, and resources. As long as you are respectful in your questioning, most attorneys will be happy to paint a broader picture for their potential clients.
- Work With a Criminal Defense Attorney Who Is Empathetic and Passionate
Going through a criminal defense case can cause a lot of stress. You may be dealing with false allegations, bad publicity, and derision or skepticism from your peers. The last thing you need is to work with an attorney who contributes to this negativity, rather than empathizing with you as an individual.
In addition to seeking out an empathic criminal defense attorney, you also want to work with one who has a strong passion for the law. You would be surprised at how many attorneys go through the motions of a case without ever really caring about the outcome. An attorney who is both empathetic and passionate is going to work a lot harder to fight for your rights in court.
- Seek Out a Clear Payment Structure
One reason that people may consider defending themselves in court rather than paying for an attorney is the cost. Some attorneys charge high fees for their legal counsel that may be out of your budget.
Don’t sign any contracts before you have a clear understanding of your attorney’s payment structure. If a law firm does not want to talk numbers, keep looking. If necessary, find an attorney that works on a pay-what-you-can scale, allows clients to create a payment plan, or offers pro-bono work.
Choosing Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Make or Break Your Case
If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, you’re almost always going to work with a criminal defense attorney. Make sure you consider these seven factors when choosing criminal defense attorneys. That way, you can make sure that you’re being defended by the person who is best suited for your individual case.
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