Understanding how to select a criminal defense attorney is difficult but essential. You have to be able to trust that your attorney really is the best person for the job and that they have your best interests at heart.
You also need to know that they are reputable, experienced and competent. Many attorneys simply fail to meet one or more of these requirements. What follows is a guide that will educate you on how to select a criminal defense attorney.
Determine Your Legal Needs
If you are facing any criminal charge, you should seek legal advice. Seeking advice does not necessarily mean immediately hiring an attorney, it just means getting a consultation. Most attorneys offer these for free. They will examine your case, and offer advice on the best way for you to proceed. Most importantly, they can help you understand the charges and the potential consequences.
If you are facing serious felony charges, it is imperative that you hire an attorney. For a misdemeanor, a consultation may be all you really need. For infractions, such as speeding tickets, an attorney will not be worth the cost.
Learn What a Defense Attorney Does
Before you hire an attorney, you should know what to expect. That means that you should know what a defense attorney does and what they do not do. Attorneys typically specialize in either civil or criminal law. A civil attorney will not be nearly as useful to you as a criminal defense attorney.
Defense attorneys will help you with all issues related to your case. They will also issue motions that can improve your outcome and even get the case dismissed. If your case goes to trial, your defense attorney is the one who will represent and advocate for you in court.
Figure Out Which Type of Attorney You Need
Criminal defense attorneys often specialize in either State or Federal law. If you are charged with violating a state law, you will need a state attorney. State law cases are things like traffic violations, robberies, family disputes and broken contracts. If you are charged with violating a federal law, such as a constitutional violation, bankruptcy or a copyright case, you will need a federal attorney.
If you are charged with violating a federal law, it is vital that you hire a very experienced attorney. Federal law cases tend to be more complex. In addition, in a Federal case you will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s office. Prosecutors from that office have a lot more time and resources to devote to your case than your State Attorney’s office will.
Talk to a Public Defender
The 6th Amendment guarantees every citizen the right to counsel, and you are entitled to an attorney from the public defender office. Depending on your case, you may want to use a public defender rather than hiring a private attorney. The best way to determine which choice is best for you is to speak to a public defender first.
Public defenders are good attorneys, but they are overworked because so many people rely on them. Generally, public defenders are for those who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. If your charge is not serious, there is no reason not to rely on one.
In more serious cases, however, a public defender probably will not have the time or resources to help you in the way you need them to. If you are facing felony charges, it is always worth it to hire a private attorney.
Find a Specialized Attorney
If you can find an attorney who focuses his or her practice on defending people accused of the specific crime you have been accused of, they are the best choice for you. Some lawyers specialize in financial crimes. Others specialize in violent crime defense. The Bar Association website in your state likely has this information publicly available.
It may not be possible to find an attorney who specializes specifically in the crime you have been accused of. If not, you should still be able to find a defense attorney with experience defending others accused of the same crime.
Decide What Qualities Are Important to You
Communication skills are important, and you should never hire an attorney who you feel does not communicate well. Other qualities are more subjective. The best qualities in your attorney will depend to some degree on what you want.
Ask around among your friends and family to see if anyone knows an attorney they respect for their honesty and integrity. You might want to consider asking the attorney to give you an example of a successful negotiation so that you can evaluate for yourself if they got the best result for their client.
If you still need help understanding how to select a criminal defense attorney, or are ready to begin the process of choosing one, contact The Brown Firm today. Our experienced attorneys are ready to answer your questions and help you to determine if we are the right firm for you. We are happy to help and offer advice.