If there’s anything more frustrating than facing a criminal charge, it is hiring the wrong criminal defense attorney. Hiring the right lawyer plays a major role in helping you deal with your criminal case. It is, perhaps, one of the most important decisions you will ever make.
You need to be level-headed and make a wise decision when it comes to choosing the right attorney. This can be a challenging task as there are a lot of criminal defense lawyers available. Not hiring an expert may weaken your case.
It’s important to hire someone who holds an authoritative position in the legal arena, can fight for you and protect your reputation and rights.
Here are five essential factors to bear in mind when hiring a criminal defense attorney.
1. Reputation Plays a Crucial Role
Does your criminal defense attorney hold a respectable position in the legal arena?
If the answer is in the negative, you need to think twice before hiring that particular lawyer.
Opting for someone just because they charge less or impress you with their advertising campaign would be a ridiculous criterion to make a decision. You can know whether the prospective lawyer is reputable or not only through their track record.
You need to find out if the attorney is respected by the judges, the percent of referrals he receives from his/her clients or other attorneys, and most importantly if he/she is trustworthy.
There are various means to know the reputation of prospective lawyers: referrals, testimonials from prior clients, and most importantly online rating.
Online searching is also a great way to find law firms in your area. If you are living in Chicago then you could simply search online for criminal defense lawyer Chicago. This will provide you with a list of all the prospective law firms. Once you have the list, you can start the hiring process by individually contacting them.
2. Experience In the Criminal Law Field
You cannot opt for someone who lacks the experience or the skill to deal with cases in the field of criminal defense. Only a professional will try and work hard to bring a positive outcome for your case.
Moreover, the prospective defense lawyer needs to have relevant experience in defending the type of crime that you have committed. Depending upon the type of criminal charges that you are facing, you need to choose someone accordingly. For instance, if you are being charged with a federal crime, then you must opt for someone who specializes in the federal law niche.
The following are a few questions you must ask the attorney in order to get a clear picture:
- How many years of experience does he/she have in dealing with cases similar as yours?
- How many members does his/her criminal defense team comprise?
- How many jury trials has he/she engaged in?
3. Transparency Is a Must
One of the most important factors in legal matters is maintaining transparency related to the criminal case.
How would you feel if your lawyer hides information about the payment policies or doesn’t update you on how your case is proceeding?
You need to see to it that your lawyer is being absolutely clear in his communication with you right from the beginning. You will get an idea of this during the initial consultation itself. Right from the outline of how the case will proceed, the time duration, the number of court appearances you will have to make, to the expense you will have to bear, he needs to estimate all these factors for you beforehand.
This applies to you as well. Bring all paperwork related to your charges and bail amount. You must provide even the minutest details to your lawyer.
4. Understand the Difference and Choose the One Who Meets Your Needs
First and foremost, you will need to determine the kind of lawyer that you need. This depends on the criminal charge levied against you- whether it is made by the state law or federal law.
If you have broken a federal law, you must hire an attorney who is more experienced and who can dedicate more time to your case. The primary reason for this is that federal law is more complex. The Federal law prosecutor (United States Attorney’s office) has more time and resources as compared to the State law prosecutor. It is, therefore, likely that the prosecution will be much stronger in the federal case and hence require that the federal defense attorney be more experienced in handling such cases.
Once you have selected the respective lawyer, he/she can help you out in various ways such as:
- Negotiating a deal
- Figuring out a good sentencing program depending on your situation
- Giving you a proper understanding of the laws and your rights
- Lessening the severity of the punishment
- Developing a sound defense strategy
5. What You Must Essentially Take Care Of
Rule of Thumb: If a lawyer guarantees you a result, he/she may be lying and you should not trust him/her.
The outcome of any criminal case depends upon various factors such as:
- Skill of your attorney
- Strengths and weaknesses of the evidence and the testimony
- Discretion of the prosecuting defense attorney.
- Tendency of the judge assigned to your case
- Willingness of police officers and victims to cooperate in reaching a fair resolution of your case
If a lawyer promises you no jail time or the dismissal of your case without understanding the above points, you need to be cautious in hiring him.
Bottom line: Don’t get lured by false promises. Certain lawyers apply all possible tactics to simply earn money. You need to be smart and know how to read between the lines.
Secondly, if a lawyer claims to know the judge or be friends with the prosecutor, you need to be very careful about hiring him. You cannot be sure of his allegiance and ascertaining his loyalty towards you will be difficult.
Choosing the right criminal defense attorney requires that you bear all the above factors in mind. Only then can you select a lawyer who can be not only your authoritative and knowledgeable voice in the legal field, but also save you from a punishment that you may not deserve. Don’t lose your calm, trust your instincts and make an informed decision. Find someone who knows the ropes of criminal cases and is confident enough to fight for you and protect you.