If you’re facing criminal charges, your choice of a defense lawyer can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. The lawyer you hire should be someone you trust to aggressively fight for your rights and answer your questions in a straightforward manner. Choosing a criminal defense attorney without doing research can be risky. After all, your freedom and well-being might be at stake. Therefore, it’s essential to know what to ask a criminal defense lawyer before hiring them or signing any agreement.
What Are Good Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Lawyer Before Hiring Them?
Meeting with an attorney in person can help you understand their experience and communication style, which is key to understanding whether they’re the right fit. You should ask any criminal defense lawyer you’re considering hiring the following important questions.
Do You Offer a Free Consultation?
Many lawyers offer initial consultations at no charge. While a free initial consultation does not exempt you from paying any upfront fees for legal services a firm charges, it does allow you to discuss your case with an attorney before deciding whether they’re a good fit for you.
Do You Focus on Criminal Law Exclusively?
Some criminal defense attorneys handle other cases, such as divorce, personal injury, estate planning, and other practice areas. Although lawyers with wide-ranging practices can be good defense attorneys, someone who focuses solely on criminal law could benefit your case. An attorney who practices in multiple areas may not have the particular experience and knowledge you can count on.
For instance, instead of identifying all possible defense strategies and choosing one that meets your needs, an inexperienced attorney might focus on the easiest solution, which might not be the best one for you. An attorney with extensive experience in criminal law can consider your case from all angles and determine the best path, given your particular circumstances.
Have You Handled Cases Like Mine?
You should always ask any criminal defense lawyer you consult with whether they have handled other cases like yours. If they have, they likely know which approach to take and which strategies can lead to a favorable outcome. Additionally, an attorney with experience in cases like yours can prepare a solid defense early because they are already familiar with the relevant laws.
Do You Know How My Case Will End?
A criminal defense lawyer should never promise you a specific outcome in your case. You should be wary of an attorney who tells you otherwise. An experienced and honest defense attorney will not attempt to predict the future but should instead prepare you for every possible scenario. A lawyer can inform you of what to expect during legal proceedings based on previous cases similar to yours and their experience in the field.
How Much Are Your Legal Fees?
Attorneys may charge their fees in different ways. For example, some attorneys charge by the hour. Others require an upfront fee upon hiring them and additional costs throughout the case. For instance, they might charge you for every phone call and email you exchange with them. They might also require you to cover case-related costs.
The lawyers you meet with shouldn’t have a problem discussing their fee arrangements with you. Being vague or dodging the question entirely is a red flag that you shouldn’t hire them. Your legal fees and costs should be outlined in your retainer agreement.
What’s Your Availability?
Being arrested and facing criminal charges can be stressful. You need a criminal defense attorney who understands this and can ease your concerns by getting to know you, answering your questions, and making themselves available whenever you need them.
Should You Tell Your Defense Attorney Everything?
Your criminal defense attorney will likely want to know everything about your case to build a solid defense against your charges. That means you should be honest while discussing facts and details with your lawyer. Don’t withhold information or bend the truth. Your attorney cannot provide you with effective representation if you lie to them or omit details. However, your lawyer is an officer of the court and cannot lie to the court. Be sure you understand what information is confidential and what information is not before you make disclosures.
When to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
You should hire a criminal defense lawyer immediately following an arrest. Defendants with ineffective legal representation often make mistakes, such as saying something to the police that the prosecutor could use against them. Hiring a lawyer immediately will give you someone to protect your rights throughout the legal process.
Why Should I Choose a Private Defense Lawyer Over a Public Defender?
Public defenders are attorneys the courts appoint to defend people charged with crimes. Although they are just as qualified as other attorneys, they are often overworked and underpaid. A public defender might not have enough time to evaluate your case and all your legal options and prepare a robust defense. Furthermore, you don’t get to choose your public defender. The court appoints one to you. Do you want to trust the outcome of your case to the luck of the draw?
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