There’s a lot more to choosing an attorney that meets the eye. It isn’t enough to simply pick an attorney that has been branded the best. You have to pick someone who will be perfect for your needs. Choosing an attorney to defend you against a criminal accusation is obviously an important decision. Your entire future could rest upon this, especially when there is a chance that you could be branded a criminal for life.
The first thing to do is to decide if you really need an attorney. In cases where an attorney cannot make much difference to the outcome, it is better to have a public defender represent them. Public defenders are available for people who cannot afford expensive legal fees for an attorney. These generally do not have much time to concentrate on your case so if there are. Complications, look to an attorney.
Choose the attorney according to the crime which will either have broken state laws or federal laws. State law related crimes include traffic violations, robberies, familial disputes and the like. Breaking federal law includes violations against the US Constitution, cases in which the US is a party, bankruptcy and is considered much more serious. Rapes, murders and other felonies fall in this category. The prosecution for federal law violations is carried out by the United States Attorney’s Office.
Take your decision based on what kind of case it is and what your options are. No matter what the crime is though, seek legal consultation. Most attorneys will give you a free consultation to lay out the options in front of you. There may be circumstances that may require the skills of a good criminal attorney.
Most attorneys would have chosen a specialization. Even within civil or criminal cases, there are further sub specializations. Some may concentrate on financial fraud cases while some may take up DUI cases. Seek an attorney who specializes and mostly handles cases that match most closely to yours.
Now that you have a better understanding about how criminal law works, here is a nine point guide to aid you in choosing the person who will clear your name or get you a good deal.
- Check your State Bar Association website to determine which category your case falls under.
- Look locally for attorneys who can handle your type of case.
- In addition to reputation, look for the qualities that you are comfortable with. A good track record, comfort level, communication skills, cases won, the type of cases that form a majority of the caseload and good work ethic are some of the qualities that people look for.
- Enquire about a successful negotiation case resolved by the attorney. Also ensure that getting a plea bargain is his usual procedure if that is your wish.
- Be wary of an attorney making promises about an outcome without reviewing the case or before a court appearance. These are likely to fleece you for as much money as possible.
- Attorneys may charge a flat fee, an hour based fee or a certain amount for specific parts of the case. Hourly fees seem affordable but there’s no telling how much time will be taken up by the case. In case of a flat fee, most attorneys will charge a minimum refundable amount. The fee increases when the work done exceeds the payment already made.
- Prepare a list of questions to ask the attorney at the first meeting. Carry all case related documents like the police report.
- In the meeting cover all the topics mentioned earlier. Ask about trial strategy and determine whether a plea bargain or a negotiation is advisable. Get details on the legal team, fees, and cases similar to yours that the attorney has worked on. Also find out how much of the case will be handled by the lead attorney and how much by the team.
- Ensure that there is a contingency plan in place in case of the attorney falling ill or unexpectedly unavailable.
Follow all these points and you will be good to go.