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How to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Gutin & Wolverton Nov. 4, 2016

You never know what legal trouble may come your way. That’s why you need to protect yourself with the right representation.

If you find yourself in trouble with the law, understand that you have the right to a legal defense under the sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Therefore, in the event that you are charged or suspected of a crime, the first thing you must do is learn how to hire a criminal defense lawyer.

Remember that knowledge is power, so even if felony legal problems aren’t on your radar, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer

This is not a journey you want to go on alone. Without an experienced lawyer by your side, you miss out on the following:

  • A firm grasp on how the legal system works.

  • What your case means in legal terms.

  • What to expect during a trial.

  • A clear understanding of court rules and regulations.

  • Negotiation of your sentence.

  • Procurement of more eye-witness testimonies

  • Opportunities to appeal

Furthermore, a Cornell University study found that defendants are twice as likely to win their appeal cases than plaintiffs. You don’t want to miss out any possible legal advantages available to you, so let’s walk through what you need to do to land the right attorney for your case.

Step 1: Do Your Research

The first thing you need to do is collect any and all case documents you have and perform thorough research. Online, you can find the following information:

  • Locations of criminal defense attorneys in your area.

  • Defense attorney profiles and educational backgrounds.

  • Costs and accompanying fees for private attorneys.

  • Basic legal terms, processes, and court rules. It’s beneficial to have even the most basic understanding of the law and legal system before hiring an attorney.

  • Proper procedures for arrests and arrest warrants.

  • Learn what your case is about. Defense lawyers have different practices, so get a free case evaluation to learn what type of criminal defense lawyer you need.

Step 2: Look for Good Referrals and Testimonials

An honest review goes a long way.

After narrowing down your choices, review testimonials from real clients. Client testimonials give you a better understanding of how that law firm operates, treats their clients, and manages their cases. You can also ask trusted family and friends for their opinions as well.

Your defense attorney should have a solid reputation in the community, and many former clients turn to attorney rating sites to voice their opinion. Since you want the best legal representation, your chosen law firm should have a 4- to 5-star rating.

Step 3: Know What to Look for In a Professional Defense Attorney

Unfortunately, you may run into people who claim to be defense lawyers but don’t actually hold the required qualifications. At a minimum, all criminal defense lawyers must have the following qualifications:

  • Member of the American Bar Association (ABA).

  • Law degree from an ABA accredited law school.

  • Current license to practice criminal law.

Effective criminal defense lawyers will have these additional technical qualifications:

  • Proven experience in their field.

  • Trial courtroom experience

  • Experience with interviewing witnesses and law enforcement.

  • Understanding of crime scene investigations, procedures, crime photo analysis.

  • Solid experience with polygraph tests.

  • Wide knowledge of defenses available to you.

  • Different plea bargains pertinent to your case.

You should also look for the following professional qualifications as well:

  • Good ethics: Your defense attorney should have a good ethical track record.

  • Professional communication: A good lawyer will explain the facts and keep you up to date on your legal process.

  • Good judgment: Effective lawyers use sound logic to create arguments that work.

  • Negotiation tactics: A good lawyer will negotiate your sentence to help you avoid as much jail time as possible.

  • An attention to detail: Great lawyers catch every detail. For example, an experienced criminal defense attorney will immediately point out whether or not your arresting officer was acting within protocol. If not, that could give you a huge advantage.

  • Commitment to your case: A good defense lawyer will stick with you till the end.

Step 4: Prepare Questions in Advance

You don’t want to be left in the dark. That’s why you need to prepare a list of questions in advance for your attorney or consultation.

At a minimum, ask the following questions at your appointment:

  • How long have you been practicing criminal defense law?

  • Have you worked on a case like mine before?

  • How much trial experience do you have for my type of case?

  • What are your thoughts or protocol for plea bargains?

  • What type of sentences are plausible for my case?

  • What type of clients do you represent? Do you represent more corporate clients or middle-income citizens?

A reputable defense attorney will be open to your questions, so don’t hesitate to get all the information you need to make a decision.

Step 5: Get Organized

The legal process is a whirlwind, but it’s important to stay focused. From the very start, hold on to every piece of documentation you are given.

Most importantly, however, you need to organize your thoughts. While discussing the nature of your case may be difficult, don’t hold any information back from your defense attorney. This will only come back to bite you in the end.

You also want to be truthful during your free consultation so your legal expert can give you an accurate assessment of your case.

Remember, you have the right to remain silent during an arrest, so leave the facts to your attorney. Think clearly about the facts, and do your best to accurately describe the time of day, location, and circumstances surrounding your charge.

Step 6: Hire Your Attorney

Your end goal is to hire the best possible defense attorney for your case. After performing steps 1 through 5, you should be well on your way to hiring a reputable attorney.

The most important takeaway from this is to receive your free legal consultation. This will let you know whether or not you even need a lawyer and how to proceed moving forward. To get the ball rolling on your case today, contact your local law office to evaluate your case.