How To Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney
A criminal law lawyer may either represent a person who has been accused of a crime or the government in prosecuting the accused. In a typical criminal case, a defense lawyer represents the defendant while an opposing attorney, called a prosecutor, stands in for the government. A criminal law lawyer who practices defense law can wear a number of different hats – from defending a person against a speeding ticket charge to advocating for an alleged criminal during a murder trial (source).
One of the primary tasks of a criminal law lawyer is to advocate for his or her clients. In order to effectively do this, an attorney may need to put aside his or her personal opinion about a case.
Why Do I Need an Attorney?
The courts of our nation have become very complex, and it can be very difficult for people to find their way through the system without special training. Even when judges are understanding, trying to represent yourself can cause undue delay in the resolution of your case, and even small procedural errors can be very damaging to the outcome of a case. In most cases, the best way to protect your rights is to hire an attorney.
How much does an attorney cost?
The cost of an attorney can vary substantially. Some types of cases are more costly to litigate than others. For example, hiring a lawyer to fight a traffic ticket will cost a lot less than hiring a lawyer to fight a felony criminal charge. Also, different lawyers charge different rates. It is not always true that the best lawyer costs the most, but the best lawyers usually do not charge the lowest rates.
Where Can I Find An Attorney?
You can find the names of attorneys from a variety of sources. You may seek advice from friends, or from your doctor, accountant, or another professional. You may look in the Yellow Pages. You may contact a State Bar lawyer referral service. You may look in an on-line legal directory. There are many ways to seek a lawyer, but there are no magic answers to finding a good lawyer.
Go To An Attorney You Trust, And Seek A Referral
One of the best ways to find an attorney is to consult an attorney you trust. If you do not know any attorneys, ask your friends for names of attorneys they trust. It is not important that the attorney can handle your case — what is important is that the attorney is likely to comprehend the issues of your case, and is well-positioned to know which attorneys in your community have the skills to handle your case. Even if the attorney cannot personally take your case, he will often be able to refer you to an attorney who can.
Referral Services & Membership Organizations
Many state bar organizations offer referral services, to help people find attorneys. Usually, any member of the organization can list with its referral service, and you can’t know just from the referral that the lawyer is truly qualified to handle your case. There are also a number of specialty organizations, such as the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which have very high standards for membership, and whose members generally are highly skilled within their practice area. However, most legal organizations are open to all attorneys, and membership means only that the attorney has paid the membership fee.
A number of commercial on-line directories claim to screen their attorneys, or claim to list only highly qualified attorneys. Most are not being completely honest. Regardless of their promises, most on-line directories will list any attorney who pays the required fee, and there is absolutely no guarantee that the listed attorneys are qualified to handle your case.
There are two large, free directories of lawyers, which are very comprehensive. The West Group Legal Directory and Martindale-Hubbell’s on-line directory list most licensed attorneys in the United States, and have extensive overseas listings. The West Group directory allows attorneys to list a lot more information than Martindale-Hubbell without charge, so it is easier to search by specialty area in the West Group directory. However, just because an attorney lists a practice area does not necessarily mean that the attorney is skilled in that area. Martindale-Hubbell describes some attorneys by rating, “AV,” “BV,” and occasionally “CV.” These are peer ratings of lawyers and firms. The “AV” rating is highly coveted, and usually means that the firm has a very good reputation in the legal community. (“A”, “B”, and “C” are letter grades, while a “V” rating means that the firm is ethical.) Unfortunately, few firms are rated.)
Are There Special Types of Lawyers for Different Types of Cases?
Yes. There are many specialties within the law, just as there are in medicine. There are general practitioners, who handle a wide variety of cases. There are specialists, who have developed particular skills in handing a narrow category of cases. There are also a number of attorneys who specialize in several areas. Specialties include bankruptcy, real estate, business and contracts, criminal defense, personal injury, appeals, workers’ compensation, wills and estates, and family law.
If I Meet with an Attorney, Do I Have to Hire Him?
No. Before your meeting, you should ask if there is a fee for an initial consultation. You will be obligated to pay that fee even if you do not hire the attorney. However, even if the consultation is free, you have every right to take some time to think before you hire the attorney, and you have every right to decide not to hire the attorney. Hiring an attorney is a big step, and there is nothing wrong with shopping around.
What Should I Ask the Attorney Before I Hire Him?
The questions you should ask will vary with your case. Consider the following list to be a starting point:
- What are your areas of specialization?
- What is the cost of the initial consultation?
- Have you handled cases like mine before? How many? What was the outcome?
- Will you be the only attorney who works on the case? If not, who else will work on it?
- How long will it take for this case to be resolved?
- How much will my case cost? Can you take my case on a contingent fee basis?
- Can I do some of the work on the case to keep the cost down?
- Are there things I should do to improve my case, or to help you?
- How will you keep me informed about the progress of my case?
- If I contact your office with questions, how long will you take to return my call?
- If you are accused of a crime, your freedom, your family, your reputation, your immigration status, and your job may be at stake. The outcome you receive in the criminal justice system depends upon the experience and knowledge of the defense attorney you choose to represent you.
West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
When you retain the law firm of Andrew D. Stine, P.A., you do not simply retain a nationally recognized criminal defense lawyer. You retain a criminal defense team who has worked together for years and successfully represented clients in virtually every type of criminal case, including:
- Animal cruelty, such as dog fighting, cock fighting and abandonment
- Drug crimes, such as drug trafficking and Oxycodone offenses
- Fraud, such as mortgage fraud, insider trading and mail fraud
- Traffic offenses, such as DUI
- Violent crimes, such as domestic violence and battery
Contact our firm to discuss your case in a confidential consultation.