What to Look For in a Criminal Defense Attorney

Whether you thought it would happen or not, police want to bring you in for questioning, or you have been charged with a crime. If you do not already have an attorney, now is the time to get one. Here’s exactly what you should look for in this person, as explained by Kensley Barrett: Criminal Defense Lawyer.


This Person Does Not Handle Your Civil Matters

As a general rule, you don’t want the people who handle your estate planning or business incorporation to handle criminal matters. They’re likely not well-versed in such affairs, and criminal charges are something to take seriously. That said, if you trust your civil attorney, you can, and should, ask for recommendations for criminal defense lawyers.

The Two of You Communicate Well

In this case, communicating well does not mean the attorney saying, “Oh, yeah, don’t worry, I’ll get you off.” No one can know if that is possible. Rather, good communication means you understand what he or she is trying to convey, and you feel comfortable expressing your concerns and questions. Moreover, someone who communicates well may be more likely to establish rapport with others in a courtroom.

Many lawyers offer free consultations so that you can get a feel for them (and so that they can get an idea of your case) before committing serious time and money to any specific person. If you are tight on money, you might prefer to consider only these attorneys who offer free initial meetings.

Money Matters Make Sense

There is no one right way for attorneys to bill their clients. Some work hourly, while others ask for a figure that will not change. There are other methods too. Be sure you understand how—and when—your prospective attorney(s) expect to be paid. For example, if your charge is dismissed, do you get any of your retainer back? Get a fee agreement that is easy to understand, and keep a copy for your records.

The Attorney Specializes in the Area You Need

Someone who typically handles drunken driving charges may not be the best person to help you in a matter such as, say, bribery or theft. To determine whether an attorney has relevant experience, ask questions along the lines of, “What is the percentage of cases you handle that deal with [name of issue]?” Another question could be, “What is the worst mistake that people dealing with [name of issue] make while they’re waiting for trial?” You can also ask what percentage of this lawyer’s defendants plea bargain or are found not guilty.

The geographical area you are dealing with is also relevant. It is good to have a lawyer who knows who’s who, what makes certain judges tick, and so on. One town might handle drunken driving cases very differently from the next town over.

Other Folks Vouch for the Person

Fire up Google, and run searches on the lawyers you are considering. Have they been quoted in the media? Are references to them generally positive or negative? What do former clients on review sites and other sites say about them? Also, check out the attorneys’ websites for references and testimonials.

Courtroom Style

Some people find their lawyers by sitting in court and watching attorneys argue cases. They take note of the ones they especially like, research them, and get in touch with them about possible representation. Many cases do not go to court, however, so keep that in mind.

Bonus Tip: He or She Has Played Both Sides

Retaining former prosecutors can give you an edge that many criminal defendants do not have. For example, former prosecutors may be on better terms with police officers and with judges. Their word may mean more to those people. At the very least, a prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney knows about shady tricks that officials in the area tend to play.

That said, there are plenty of excellent criminal defense attorneys who have never prosecuted a case. You might prefer to consider this factor only if your choices have come down to two or three attorneys you really like.

Having the right criminal defense attorney might mean the difference between going free or spending years in prison. It is worth taking some time to find a person who meets your needs.


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