What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Lawyer (It’s Not What You Think)

What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Lawyer (It's Not What You Think)
What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Lawyer (It’s Not What You Think)

When you are preparing to create a speech, what is your primary goal? If you are like most speakers what you want to be able to do is to grab and hold on to your audience’s attention. This, of course, brings up the question of just exactly what the best way to go about doing this is. One classic technique is to appeal to your audience’s curiosity. You can pose a question in the title of your speech and then answer it as you deliver your speech — your audience will be on the edge of their seats waiting to find out the answer to the question that you posed. As a good example of this, let’s take a look at how you would prepare to give a speech on what to look for in a criminal defense lawyer.

As you sit in the police cruiser, hands cuffed, thoughts race through your head. How can you get out of this mess?

In America, law enforcement officials arrest someone every three seconds! So, many Americans have gone through what you are about to experience.

The first thing you need to do is find a good lawyer. Hiring the right attorney is the difference between a stint in the slammer and walking free.

To help you get started, we put together a guide explaining what to look for in a criminal defense lawyer. Keep reading to learn what questions to ask and how to increase your chances of the judge ruling in your favor.

Give the Public Defender a Chance

Everyone who has to go to court for a criminal offense gets an appointed state public defender. Yes, these attorneys have a huge caseload, but that doesn’t mean you should refuse to even speak with the public defender assigned to you. They might surprise you!

Most lawyers who get a job working for the state have a proven track record in court and have years of experience. These lawyers know their stuff and charge much less than a private attorney.

If money is tight and you get charged with a criminal offense, the public defense lawyer could be your best shot! If your public defense attorney can do a good job representing you, let them do it and save that money for your bail payment (if you choose to).

What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Lawyer If You Want to Hire a Private Attorney

It’s hard to do thorough interviews with potential lawyers while you are in jail, so it is important to know what questions to ask and what to look for before your meeting. Here are some important questions to ask an attorney the first time you meet with them.

Do They Specialize in Criminal Law and for How Many Years?

Be specific about how you ask this question and listen close for their answer. Not all lawyers focus their practice on criminal law, but that doesn’t prevent attorneys from taking on a case they are not experts on.

You could be talking to a lawyer who has 10 years of experience as a trial lawyer, but 8 of those years were in divorce court. Hiring a lawyer who only has 2 years of experience with cases like yours is a risky idea. Instead, look for someone with many years of successful criminal defense cases.

How Long Have They Practiced Law in Your State?

You can find a lawyer with the most won trials in the nation, but if they don’t know about the state laws involved in your case, the trial could end in disaster! If your arrest happened in Minneapolis, you want to find a great St Paul DWI Lawyer, not the best lawyer in Los Angeles.

Laws vary a lot from state to state and change over time. Lawyers need to keep up with those laws for them to represent you to the best of their abilities. A lawyer who hasn’t worked in your state in a long time (or at all) should not be your choice for a criminal defense attorney.

How Many Trials Have They Won?

A lawyer should have a breakdown of how many cases they took to trial and how many cases they won. Both of these numbers are important to know when deciding if a particular lawyer is a good fit for your situation. 

If the potential lawyer hasn’t taken many cases to court, they may lack the experience to defend you well. 

Or, if the attorney has taken many cases to court, but did not win many of those cases, that also speaks to their criminal defense skills. No lawyer will have won every single case that comes across their desk, but they should have a decent success rate.

Are They Upfront and Honest About Their Fees?

Another great warning sign to look for is how upfront the attorney is about how much they charge for cases like yours. If the lawyer refuses to give you a straight answer, or if they make the fee schedule over-complicated, you should pass on hiring that lawyer.

On the other end of the spectrum, if the lawyer gives you a flat rate fee that sounds too good to be true, thank them and see yourself out. When it comes to criminal defense lawyers, you get what you pay for when you try to get cheap representation.

Some lawyers charge a flat fee and others charge by the hour. An experienced lawyer should know about how many hours they will need to devote to your case and give you at least a ballpark estimate of how much you will pay for their services.

It’s Not What You Know, It’s What You Can Prove in a Court of Law

Knowing what to look for in a criminal defense lawyer is only half of the battle. You also need evidence to back up your story!

The good news is, the prosecutor’s job is proving you are guilty. All you (and your lawyer) need to do is show the jury where the holes are in the prosecutor’s story.

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