How to Choose a Criminal Defense Attorney

Last Updated: November 5th, 2019 at 6:18 pm
Read Time: 6 Minutes

If you or someone you know has been arrested or charged with a crime, talking to an attorney can give you the guidance and resources needed to proceed. Hiring a criminal defense attorney to help with your case, listen to your concerns, and provide proper advice on how to approach your legal responsibilities is paramount. However, choosing the right criminal defense lawyer takes time, and most people do not even know where to start.Continue reading to learn how to choose a criminal defense attorney that will fight for your rights and be the best fit for your case.

What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?

To start, let’s explain what exactly a criminal defense lawyer does. Criminal justice lawyers work with those accused of a crime, becoming their legal representation in criminal courts. Criminal lawyers gather facts, information, paperwork, and everything that relates to the case to defend individuals against the charges they are facing.

6 Steps to Choosing a Criminal Defense Attorney

The task of choosing the right criminal defense attorney for your case can be daunting. Do not jump to the first ad or search result you come across. Taking the time to find the right attorney for your case can be the difference between spending time in jail or a more favorable result.

Step 1: Determine Your Legal Needs

First of all, no matter how minor your criminal charge is, seeking legal advice is imperative. Even if you do not hire an attorney, requesting a consultation will give you an idea of your legal needs. Anyone facing serious charges is strongly encouraged to obtain legal representation before going to court.

Step 2: Federal Attorney vs. State Attorney

Depending on your case, you might need a federal attorney versus a state attorney. Anyone that broke state law must look for criminal defense attorneys that specialize in that state’s law. Federal cases, on the other hand, involve violations of the Constitution, copyright, and other cases which require the consultation of a Federal attorney. ,/p>

Step 3: Search for Specialized Criminal Defense Attorneys

Most lawyers concentrate their practice in specific areas of defense. According to your legal needs, you may steer toward a more specialized criminal attorney. Asking about areas of practice and areas of specialization can help you make the right decision.

Step 4: Determine What’s Important

Also, you want to think about the qualities that matter to you the most. You should be able to trust in your criminal defense lawyer fully. Maybe you’re looking for an attorney with critical communication skills, or ethics is your main concern. Whatever the case, make sure your attorney aligns with what’s essential for you.

Step 5: Do Research

A quick search for “criminal defense attorneys near me” will roll out dozens of pages with qualified lawyers in the area. Take the time to go through these results, check they are members of professional organizations, look at testimonials, ask for referrals, look for them in the State Bar website to confirm they are Certified Criminal Law Specialists. The more research you do, the more chances you have of finding the right fit.

Step 6: Schedule a Consultation

Lastly, most criminal defense attorneys offer initial consultations at no cost. Once you’ve selected a few law firms near you to represent you possibly, make sure you schedule a meeting so you can start narrowing down your search and choose the right attorney.Criminal defense attorney discusses case details with clients

What to Expect from Your First Meeting with a Criminal Defense Attorney

The first meeting with your criminal defense attorney is the first step in your defense journey. As you prepare for your first meeting, you should expect to answer some questions. Most lawyers will ask for specific documentation to review during your first meeting and take this opportunity to ask as many questions as you need to, to become comfortable with the attorney’s counsel.The more prepared you are, the more you can get out of your meeting with the criminal defense lawyers you are considering. Expect to be asked factual questions about yourself, questions that will help the lawyer reveal your character, and other questions that will help your attorney represent you better in court.

Questions to Expect From Your Criminal Defense Lawyer

Even though your case file gives your attorney some information, you should still expect to be asked other questions by your lawyer, such as:
  • What did you hear, see, do or not do?
  • What did you say and to whom?
  • Was someone else involved?
  • What did other parties say or do?
  • Where were you when you were arrested?
  • What did the officers say?
  • How did the officers approach you?
  • What did the officers do the moments leading up to, during, and after the arrest?
Besides expecting these questions, you should do your best to be prepared for your first meeting by bringing the following documents:
  • Bail documents
  • Arrest documents
  • Police report
  • Any evidence
  • Property search report
  • Information regarding witnesses, including their contact information

Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Lawyer

During the first meeting, you might have as many questions for your lawyer as he has for you. Asking the right questions will also help you choose the right attorney for your case. Make sure to ask the following questions.About Their Criminal Defense Background 
  • How often do your clients go to trial?
  • Do you belong to any professional organizations?
  • How long have you been practicing criminal law?
  • Have you pursued similar cases in the past? How did those turn out?
About the Case 
  • What are my legal options?
  • What do I have in my favor?
  • What potential issues do you foresee with my case?
  • Can I expect you to be involved at different stages throughout the process? If not, can I meet with everyone who will be involved in my case?
  • What can I do to help my case?
  • What’s the best-case scenario? What’s the worst-case scenario?
  • What are things I should avoid that can damage my case?
About the Fees 
  • What are your fees? Are they hourly or flat fees?
  • Do I have to pay a retainer fee?
  • What’s included within your fees?
  • What other expenses should I expect besides your fee?
  • Can I have an estimate of total expenses?

Finding the Right Criminal Defense Attorney near You

Once you’ve gathered all your information, you can finally hire a criminal defense attorney in South Florida. Finding the right attorney near you is extremely valuable for your case. Ideally, you want to find someone with experience in the courthouse where your case is pending. The local advantage means your attorney may know which prosecutors are more likely to plead right before a trial, who negotiates in advance, how local police officers perform in court before juries, and so on.So, for example, if your case is in South Florida, hiring a criminal defense attorney means your case will be handled by an attorney with knowledge of local procedures and experience with local personnel. Having a qualified local attorney representing you in court can make all the difference.In the end, if you still can’t decide, ask yourself who has the experience you need to represent you with the charges you are facing, think about who was most helpful, consider which one seemed most confident with your case, and compare their legal fees.Honest answers to these questions will steer you to the best criminal defense attorney near you to represent your case.