1. Get a free phone consultation with a criminal defense attorney and make sure they are responsive
You can tell a lot about an attorney with how they handle your free consultation. If they do not return your call within 24 hours you may want to speak to a different attorney. Organized law firms can have several people answering the phones and it is important that every call is handled and not put aside. When you need a criminal defense attorney, it is usually a time sensitive matter so they need to get back to you quickly. Talk to them about your case and ask yourself if you feel they understand the seriousness of your situation. A conviction of criminal charges can stay with you for the rest of your life, therefore it is important that you have the right person defending your case. Did they give additional information that you did not ask for? That is usually a sign that they know what they are talking about which, in turn, could lead to quality legal representation for you. Any criminal defense attorney that charges a fee for a consultation may be one to consider avoiding.
2. They are knowledgeable in the criminal charges you are facing
During your free consultation, a quality criminal attorney should provide some information as to the consequences of a potential conviction. They should ask about the circumstances surrounding the arrest and allegations involved in your situation. They may provide input as to where holes can be poked in the prosecution’s case. If the attorney is knowledgeable in the charges that you are facing, you will be able to tell by the amount of information they provide and the questions they ask.
3. They have experience defending those criminal charges
What type of experience does this criminal defense attorney have defending the exact charges you face? How many years have they been practicing in the field of criminal law? How many cases have they handled that are similar to yours? An experienced criminal defense attorney may specialize in a specific category of criminal charges which may not match up to your charges. Make sure that they have experience not only in the local court that your case will be tried in but also in the type of criminal charges you are facing.
4. Choose someone experienced in the courts your case is being tried in
Which court houses do they practice in? Are they regularly practicing in the county that your criminal charges have been filed in? A local criminal defense attorney will be familiar with the local court that your case is being held in. If they have an office in that area then that is an indication that they may have dealt with the judge and prosecutor that will be handling your criminal case. For example, if your case is in Cook County then you should consider hiring a Cook County criminal defense attorney to represent you. The more local your attorney is, the less you will pay in travel time resulting your attorney’s fees being lower.
5. They have courtroom confidence
The last thing that you want is to have an attorney represent you in court that has no confidence. You need them to stand up for you and fight your case hard because your freedom could be at stake depending on the charges you are facing. You need an attorney that isn’t going to be pressured into doing something that isn’t good for the client they are representing just because its easier for them. Often, a prosecutor will try to plea bargain with your attorney. Depending on the situation, you may want to go to trial, especially if you are innocent of the alleged crime that took place. If this is the case then you need a lawyer that will respect that decision and not pressure you to take a plea deal if that is not the route you feel is best for your situation.
6. Attorney’s fees are clear
Attorney’s fees can become pricey depending on the amount of time that it takes to attend to your case. You want a clear picture of what those fees are going to be. There may be circumstances where additional fees may accumulate. Your attorney should discuss these additional fees prior to charging you and why they occurred so that you are on the same page. Often times, payment plans can be arranged.
7. They answer your questions
An attorney that is dismissive and doesn’t listen to their clients is one you may want to avoid. It is important that they take the time to hear your concerns and guide you throughout the entire court process because it can be complicated. They should also be responsive when you have questions.
8. What are the advantages using a private criminal attorney vs. a public defender?
It is a known fact that public defenders have a higher volume of cases compared to private criminal attorneys. This allows a private criminal attorney to give each case more individual attention. A public defender will most likely encourage their clients to take a plea deal because of their case volume. They may or may not negotiate the best deal for you due to time constraints. You then have to decide if it is the right situation for you or if a criminal defense attorney can represent you better. If you are facing felony charges you may want to consider using a private criminal defense attorney to give yourself the best chance at a good outcome because you could be facing serious jail time.
9. Look for a criminal attorney that specializes in the area of criminal law that you are being charged with.
Often, you will find family lawyers that will take on criminal cases as well. This may not be their area of expertise and they may not have the experience that will best serve you in court. Don’t get this confused though with a criminal attorney that also handles family law because there is a difference. If you are facing criminal charges, then you need a criminal attorney and not one that only practices criminal law once in a while. Experienced criminal lawyers will likely handle more felony cases and have experience in court defending charges such as murder, DUI’s, weapons charges, drug charges, domestic violence, aggravated battery, embezzlement, theft, robbery, vehicular hijacking and more.