Criminal Defense Attorney Selection Process
If you have a specific legal problem, don’t delay, consult a criminal defense lawyer who can help protect your good name and reputation. There are over 6,000 lawyers in Palm Beach County and less than 1,000 of them specialize in criminal law. A criminal defense attorney is a unique breed of lawyer – unlike anyone else. How do you choose which criminal defense attorney is right for you? Below is a guide that will help you make an informed decision, offered by Attorneys.com
Initial Meeting With Your Criminal Defense Attorney
Come to the meeting prepared. Some criminal defense attorneys will ask you to fill out a questionnaire and submit it ahead of the meeting. Also, gather together any documents the lawyer asks to see.
Some documents that will help the criminal law lawyers understand your situation are:
- Your bail papers
- Any documents from the court showing your charges and next court appearance date
- A copy of the police report, if possible
- Any paperwork you may have received if your property was searched
Bring these with you to your first meeting with a criminal defense lawyer. Also, compile a list of any witnesses, victims, or other defendants connected to your accused crime. The lawyers need to be sure neither they nor anyone else in their offices has ever represented anyone connected to your case. If they have, they may not be able to represent you because of a conflict of interest.
You should also bring with you a list of questions you want to ask and writing material to record the answers. This article suggests a number of questions. Do not feel obligated to use them all. Select the ones you want to ask, adding questions of your own as you see fit. Focus on questions that help you decide whether you want to hire the lawyer.
Background & Experience
When you first meet with a criminal lawyer, its important to learn whether he or she has experience handling cases similar to yours. Consider asking:
- How long have you been a lawyer?
- From what law school did you graduate?
- Do you belong to any bar associations or other professional organizations? If so, which ones?
- Have you always been a criminal defense lawyer?
- How familiar are you with the charges Im facing? What percentage of your clients face similar charges?
- How often do you appear at the courthouse where my case will be heard?
- How would you describe your relationship with the prosecutors office?
- How often do you work out plea agreements?
- How often do you take your cases to trial?
Assessment of Your Case
Whether you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, you want the attorneys you meet with to explore your various options. You don’t want any surprises. Ask such questions as:
- What happens if I plead guilty?
- Can I agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge?
- Should I go to trial?
- Which facts of my predicament work in my favor?
- Which work against me?
- What strategy would you propose for handling my case?
- Can you walk me through the process and tell me what to expect at each step, from arraignment to trial?
Lawyers use the term case management to describe how a case is handled behind the scenes. Its important for you to know the logistics, so that there will be no misunderstandings. Some relevant questions to ask include:
- Do you have time to represent me?
- Are there other criminal defense attorneys in your office who will work on my case?
- May I meet them?
- When I have questions, whom should I call?
- How do you prefer to be contacted?
- How quickly should I expect a reply?
Legal fees can be competitive among attorneys who practice criminal law. Most lawyers charge for their time using one of two billing methods: Either with an hourly fee or a flat fee. It may be worth it to shop around, comparing hourly rates and flat fees.
Some questions to ask about legal fees include:
- Do you charge a flat rate or an hourly rate?
- If you charge a flat fee, what is it?
- What does it include?
- What is not included?
- Do I need to pay it all upfront?
- If you charge an hourly fee, what is it?
- Will I have to pay a retainer fee?
- How does that work?
- Besides paying for your time, what related legal expenses will I have to pay?
- Can you estimate how high those expenses could go?
Hiring Criminal Defense Lawyers
When you are done interviewing the criminal defense attorneys, it is time to select one to hire. Your decision is easy if one clearly met all your criteria. But if you are torn between two or more, ask for the contact information for some former clients. Call them and ask about their experiences working with their lawyer. Ask for the pros and cons. Real-world feedback can be invaluable. If you still are undecided, you need to organize your thoughts. Ask yourself:
- Which attorney was most experienced with the kind of charges I’m facing?
- Whose strategy appealed the most?
- In which attorney am I most confident?
- Whose legal fees seemed fair?
The answers to these questions should point you in the direction of your best bet in a criminal defense attorney.
West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Law Firm
The Law Firm of Andrew D. Stine is located in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida. The firm’s criminal defense team includes:
- Criminal defense lawyer Andrew Stine
- Eric Centeno, a paralegal fluent in Spanish
- Dan Delois, an investigator with more than 25 years of experience
This team has met and interviewed countless defendants in federal, state and county jails, medical hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, juvenile facilities, and at numerous crime scenes throughout Florida and other states. When summoned, the team stands ready to represent clients who are in the process of having search warrants served on their homes, barns, out-buildings and even grow houses. The firm offers assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the firm’s emergency phone number: 561.880.4300