If you are unfortunate enough to be looking for a criminal defense lawyer, the decision as to who you hire is critical. Even a crime that typically would not result in a prison sentence could have enormous consequences for the rest of your life.
Experience is obviously a paramount consideration. Law school simply does not prepare an attorney for the actual practice of law. Even someone who graduates at the top of their class from the finest law school is going to have a tremendous learning curve if they want to be a trial lawyer. So I suggest that you look for an attorney who has been practicing criminal law long enough so that you're confident they know what they're doing.
Look for an attorney who is willing to take your case to trial if necessary. I'm not saying that every case should be tried. In fact, the majority of cases are resolved through a negotiated plea. But the attorneys who get the best plea offers from the prosecutors are the ones who have the reputation of preparing and litigating their cases. Prosecutors have more cases than they can handle and they have an interest in moving their cases to resolution. Their calendars get bogged down when defense attorneys start filing motions and going to trial. That puts pressure on them to make an attractive plea offer. And the less the prosecutor believes that the defense attorney is aggressively defend his or her client, the less pressure they feel.
How much will the attorney cost? This question often relates directly to the question posed above. We all know that spending money on a criminal defense lawyer is one of the last things that people want to do. One of the reasons is that it is almost always an unexpected expense and one that most people don't have money saved for. In response, many lawyers are competing on price. One thing you should not forget when comparing legal fees is the question of value. An attorney who is competing strictly on price is almost always an attorney who has very little time they can spend on each of their clients. If they quoted you $500 for a misdemeanor shoplifting or domestic violence case, they're going to want to get you in court, plead out the case, and move on to the next client. The attorney is trying to make a living and the less they charge per case, the more cases they need to handle. This happens with serious cases too. You'll find attorneys who will charge $5,000 to take on a murder case or a drug trafficking case. Believe me, that attorney is counting on the case pleading out. For the amount of money they charged, they're not going to be real happy about litigating motions to suppress or taking the case to trial. So in the end, you may save some money up front, but the end result may not be the one you were hoping for.
The best way to figure out who your criminal defense lawyer should be is to go meet with them. That will give you a sense of what they know and who they are. The relationship between a client and an attorney is an important one, so before you hire an attorney you should be able to say to yourself, "This is someone I can count on. This is someone I can trust."
If you're looking for a criminal defense lawyer, give me a call. I'd be happy to speak to you about your case.