Questions to Ask When Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

Published On: January 11, 2023
Categories: Criminal Defense

Facing criminal charges puts your life in jeopardy. Your freedom, future, finances, and family are all at risk. Since so many rides on the outcome of your case, choosing the best criminal defense attorney for your situation is the first step to protecting yourself.

Picking the right attorney starts with asking the right questions. Below are the best questions to ask when interviewing a criminal defense attorney near you.

Do You Offer Free Initial Consultations?

The initial consultation is a vital part of your legal representation. You should feel comfortable and confident in the attorney you hire. An initial consultation is the best way to ensure you get answers to the questions you have to feel good about the attorney’s ability to represent you effectively

Hiring an attorney is a major financial investment. You may want to interview several attorneys before you hire one. Meeting with attorneys that offer a free initial consultation can help you reduce the overall amount of money you spend on legal representation.

How Long Have You Practiced Criminal Law?

​Questions to Ask When Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

The legal profession is like the medical profession in that some lawyers focus their practice on a particular area of law. That said, a firm might have more than one practice area, but you want to ensure that they have handled many criminal defense matters in the past.

Experience is crucial to getting good outcomes for criminal defense clients.

Some benefits of having an experienced criminal defense lawyer include:

  • An experienced criminal defense lawyer can correctly advise you during the entire process and help manage your expectations during each stage of the case.
  • An experienced criminal defense attorney brings a detailed knowledge of the law. Every attorney has a legal education that creates the foundation of their practice. Practicing criminal defense attorneys have a deeper understanding of criminal law that helps them explain charges and penalties to clients and identify non-obvious defense options.
  • Experienced attorneys for criminal defense know the local court system in which they practice. They know how prosecutors and judges typically handle cases like yours and that knowledge is important to building a successful case strategy and defense.

Ask the attorney if they have defended against charges like yours before. Some criminal defense lawyers might have handled hundreds of DUI cases but never a violent felony. If you are facing armed robbery charges, you might want to keep looking.  The former prosecutors at Lucas, Macyszyn & Dyer Law Firm are ready to help.

What Is Your Success Rate?

Experience is important, but an experienced attorney with a long track record of successful case outcomes is the best choice for you when facing charges of a crime. You should ask about the attorney’s success rate with cases like yours during the initial consultation. Did they push all clients into a guilty plea? Have they succeeded in criminal trials?

No attorney can or will guarantee a successful outcome, of course, but the attorney you want should have a history of getting the best results for their clients based on their specific circumstances.

How Will You Craft a Defense Strategy for My Case?

During your initial consultation, you will learn more about the attorney, and they will learn more about the charges against you and your goals:

  • Discuss the facts of the arrest. Tell the attorney what happened during the arrest. Give details, including who you spoke to, whether there were any eyewitness accounts, if the police read you your rights, etc.
  • The attorney can answer your questions about your charges and the potential penalties they carry.
  • The attorney you meet with may ask about you in general, including your criminal history, your job status, your ties to the community, your immigration status, and whether you have participated in probation or diversionary programs previously.

This information will help the attorney craft a case strategy. Your attorney must know details about your arrest and history to give you an idea of the challenges and opportunities you will face moving forward. Your defense strategy is largely based on the information you share during your first meeting with the attorney.

What Is Your Opinion of the Possible Outcome of My Case?

No attorney will give you a guarantee regarding the outcome of your case. However, the attorney you hire should have enough experience handling cases like yours to give you a solid opinion on how your case may end. Be cautious of any attorney that offers you promises about the outcome of your case. However, a good attorney should point out the strengths and weaknesses of your case based on preliminary information.

Will You Be Handling My Case?

When you hire an attorney, you also hire their firm. Unless you hire a solo practitioner, different people in the firm will likely be a part of helping your case get resolved.

There is a good chance that a legal team will work on your case. Paralegals and legal assistants may have certain responsibilities by the attorney you hire. You should expect to receive phone calls, emails, or a letter from the attorney’s staff. Also, if your attorney works with other lawyers, they may need another attorney to cover their court appearances at times, so you may appear in court with their colleagues from time to time.

How Can I Help With My Defense?

Despite having the power to participate in their defense, many criminal defendants do not know how they can play an active role in their case.

Examples of how to assist in your case include:

  • Seeking anger management before an assault case goes to trial
  • Completing drug or alcohol rehabilitation before a court appearance
  • Avoiding speaking to prosecutors or witnesses without your attorney’s knowledge
  • Being honest and open with your attorney regarding any possible helpful or incriminating information
  • Paying restitution for property damage

Is Going to Trial Unavoidable?

The criminal process can be overwhelming. The thought of going to trial can be scary and cause incredible anxiety. As you interview attorneys, ask them about possible resolutions that do not involve taking your case to trial. Your attorney might negotiate a fair plea bargain or work out another arrangement. On the other hand, if you did not commit the offense, you want to be sure your attorney is ready to fight your charges at trial when necessary.

How Long Will My Case Take to Conclude?

There is no guarantee in a criminal law case, and no reputable attorney will ever make you a promise about how long your case will take. However, based on the attorney’s experience, they may provide you with a loose timeline for how long the case will take from beginning to end.

What Is Your Usual Caseload?

Before you hire an attorney, ask questions that will help you understand their current caseload. Attorneys are human and only have so much capacity. Be sure you feel comfortable with the typical caseload before hiring a defense attorney.

How Much Time Do You Spend in Court?

A large part of criminal practice is working in a courtroom. You need an attorney with confidence in the courtroom. This confidence comes from spending a lot of time inside a courtroom working with prosecutors, judges, witnesses, bailiffs, clerks, and other parties. Ask the attorneys you interview how much time they spend in the courtroom.

What Is Your Professional Reputation?

Getting a lawyer with a good reputation is important. A lawyer’s reputation can impact the outcome of your case. Defense lawyers, prosecutors, and judges are all human, and although they are professionals, people who are easy to work with usually get the best results. When your lawyer walks into court, you want the prosecutor to already know they will fight for you.

If you want an unbiased opinion of the attorney’s reputation, look at online reviews. Past clients will likely give an honest review of their experience with the attorney. Remember that not every review you see will be fair and honest, so take them each with a grain of salt.

How Will We Communicate While My Case Is Pending?

Communication is an important part of legal education. You have a right to expect effective communication from your attorney. If there are any changes to your case, you should feel confident that your attorney will keep you informed.

Before you hire an attorney, be sure to ask how their office typically communicates with clients. Often, attorneys will call or email their clients about their case if the update may leave the client with questions and needing more information only the attorney can answer. Some attorneys use their staff to inform clients about routine updates to their cases, like their next court date.

You may want to ask about how often your attorney or their team will reach out to you. It is good to get your expectations about communication clear at the beginning of your representation. Setting the standard for communication from the outset can reduce anxiety and frustration.

What Can I Expect Regarding Court Costs?

Many criminal cases involve some form of court cost as a part of their resolution. Your attorney may give you an idea of the court costs you might face, depending on your charges and the facts of your case. The jurisdiction overseeing your case may have typical court costs associated with criminal cases. Court costs can include restitution, fines, forfeiture, and more.

Court costs are typically set by statute. Your attorney will be familiar with these laws and can answer your questions about your exposure to potential court costs and fees.

How Much Do You Charge?

Legal representation is a large yet imperative financial commitment. To get the most out of your legal representation, you must know how much money the attorney you hire charges for their services and when you will need to pay them.

There are various payment structures that criminal defense attorneys offer potential clients. The payment structure that is best for you often depends on your charges.

Flat Fee Arrangement

A flat fee is a payment arrangement in which the client pays one sum for the attorney’s legal services. Flat fees are common for criminal defense representation. The amount of the fee will likely increase with the severity of the charges.

Retainer Agreement

A retainer agreement is a type of compensation for legal services. An attorney receives a retainer from a client that the attorney deposits into an escrow account. Retainers are either to reserve an attorney’s services only or to pay the attorney out of the retainer. After exhausting the retainer, the client must pay for the remainder of the work at the attorney’s hourly rate.

Hourly Rate

Some attorneys charge an hourly rate for their services. The hourly rate is money an attorney charges for each hour they spend working on a client’s case. Charging an hourly rate is more advantageous with some charges than others. For example, if a client has capital murder charges, that is a case that will limit the attorney’s ability to work for other clients for a significant amount of time. The attorney may require you to pay an hourly rate to account for the loss of other work.

Do You Offer Payment Plans?

Hiring an attorney can be expensive, and you might not have all the money upfront. Attorneys understand this fact and are often willing to work with potential clients with payment plans. Being honest with your attorney about what you can afford to pay for legal representation is important.

Hire an Attorney to Get the Best Results on Your Criminal Charge

​Questions to Ask When Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida

If you face criminal charges, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney and have them represent you in court. Television and movies make representing yourself in court look easy, but it takes special skills to effectively represent a criminal defendant.

Look for a Florida defense attorney who you can feel confident with and trust to do everything in their power to ensure you get the best results possible after a criminal charge.