If you have experienced an arrest or you learn that law enforcement is investigating you, hiring an experienced attorney is an absolute must. The questions should not be whether you need a lawyer but who you should hire and how to hire the best lawyer for your case. A criminal defense attorney that may be the best possible for someone else may not be the right for you and vice versa.
Your Lawyer Is Here to Stand Up for Your Legal Rights
Suspects and defendants have legal rights under the United States Constitution. However, an overzealous law enforcement officer or prosecutor may cross a line and violate your legal rights.
You may not even realize that law enforcement violated your legal rights. A police officer may have asked you a seemingly innocent question without informing you of your Miranda rights. Alternatively, an officer in your home to execute a search may have gone into an area not covered by the search warrant, which goes against your Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
There is no such thing as a minor violation of your legal rights. Any violation can increase your chances of being convicted and weaken your chances of obtaining a favorable legal outcome.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will forcefully stand up for your legal rights when authorities violate them. They can even win a dismissal of charges or suppression of crucial evidence.
First, you need to call an attorney to get them working on your case. Until you do that, your legal rights can be at risk. Trying to handle your case alone should not be an option. Saving money comes at a cost, as represented defendants do far better than those who try to face the legal system alone.
Hire a Private Attorney Instead of Choosing a Public Defender
Still, you should not opt for a public defender in your case unless you absolutely have no other option. It is worth it to invest in hiring an attorney in your case. Although public defenders are here to help and have good intentions, they also have crushing caseloads that can prevent them from spending the necessary amount of time on your case. Stones may be left unturned because your lawyer simply does not have the time.
Private attorneys tend to offer much more consistent experiences for their clients. In other words, your experience may be more hit or miss with a public defender. It is difficult to appeal a conviction because you did not receive competent counsel, making your choice even more crucial. For various reasons, private attorneys are also more likely to win the dismissal of charges.
However, you should not just hire any lawyer for your case. The choice of who you hire can have a direct impact on the legal result that you obtain. While you should presume that every attorney is competent and knows the law, some may be better for your case than others. With that in mind, here are some things you should consider when looking for a criminal defense lawyer.
You Must Decide Relatively Quickly
You will not have much time to choose a defense lawyer for your criminal case. If you are going to hire an attorney (and you should), the time to do it is right after your arrest. Of course, you should consult with your family to the fullest extent before making such a significant decision.
Once you have chosen an attorney, you want to avoid having to make a change because you are unsatisfied. The time it takes for your new attorney to get up to speed will harm your case and cost you additional money.
The more time you go without an attorney, the more your legal rights may be at risk. Law enforcement may be trying to speak with you, and you should never speak to them without an attorney present (and with their permission and advice).
However, you may be vulnerable to pressure tactics and other traps that can get information out of you. Without you even knowing it, you may have made a crucial admission or given law enforcement valuable evidence they can use in their case against you. By the time you hire a lawyer, the damage to your case may already be over.
Nonetheless, you should not hire a lawyer only to have legal representation. Your choice of attorney will be crucial to your defense, and it can make a difference in whether you can obtain the best possible legal result in your case. You must make a vital decision in a very short period.
The Attorney’s Experience Is Very Important
Perhaps the most crucial consideration when hiring a criminal defense lawyer is experience. You never want to hire someone who does not have experience in the area of your case. For example, if you face charges of a serious felony, you will not want a personal injury lawyer or someone who primarily focuses their practice on DUI representing you.
Your choice of a lawyer should depend on the gravity of the alleged offense. Fewer lawyers have the experience and resources to handle a case involving a long potential jail sentence or a detailed criminal trial.
You Should Hire an Attorney With a Track Record in Cases Similar to Yours
Experience is about more than just how long someone has practiced law. You should also be mindful of the types of cases. For instance, if you face sex crime charges, you will want someone with a track record defending those cases because there may be different considerations (especially given the potential damage to your reputation).
In addition, your attorney should also have experience in the local area and the type of court where your case may be based. Federal cases have different dynamics and rules than local and state cases. If you face federal criminal charges, you will need someone with specific experience in federal courts.
Your Attorney Should Have Important Connections
Experience is also a matter of local ties and connections. One helpful experience a criminal defense lawyer can have is time spent as a prosecutor. If they have this experience, they can put themselves in the shoes of a prosecutor and try to think as they will. Knowing a prosecutor’s next moves can help your legal defense.
This career background also may mean that your attorney can have the right connections with prosecutors. You may need to negotiate with the prosecutor at some point. The prosecutor may have a level of trust with someone who has worked in their place regarding negotiations. In addition, a former prosecutor may earn credibility in front of the judge.
You need an attorney who gets their call answered if they try to contact the prosecutor. Some lawyers have better connections than others in a local area. Someone practicing for years may have a far more extensive Rolodex than a newer attorney.
Your Attorney Should Relate to You and Understand Your Needs
The relationship between you and your attorney is crucial in a criminal case. You want to trust your attorney. After all, you are putting your very freedom in their hands. When you talk with them, pay close attention to how your attorney relates to you. While your attorney is skilled in the legal arena, you also expect them to understand what you are going through now.
Your attorney needs to both have the time and take the time to learn more about you and your situation. Your lawyer cannot fight for the best legal outcome if they do not fully understand what that looks like for you.
For example, a conviction in your case can mean:
- The loss of your job (and potentially the ability to find a job in the future)
- A negative impact on your child custody situation
- Jeopardizing your ability to remain in the United States (if you are not a citizen)
- The loss of your ability to vote
- The loss of your ability to carry a firearm
- Damage to your reputation
- Difficulty finding a place to live
There are some instances where it may make sense for you to fight the charges, while you can also consider entering into a plea bargain for lesser charges. Your strategy may be different depending on your own life situation. Your lawyer should take the time to listen to you and understand what may be important to you.
Although your attorney is very busy, you also expect them to take the time to explain things to you in terms that you understand. Some attorneys may lapse into legal speak instead of explaining things in plain English. Other attorneys have the skill of explaining complex legal topics in easily relatable and understandable ways.
How your attorney communicates with you is crucial. You will get requests to make meaningful decisions based on their advice, and you must comprehend your options and where your case stands.
You Need a Sensible and Pragmatic Attorney
Every attorney promises to fight hard for you, which is part of the job. An experienced lawyer is here to protect your legal rights when you are being investigated or charged with a crime. However, your attorney must also be pragmatic and incorporate common sense into their legal defense and advice. In some cases, fighting may not be your best option.
Accordingly, your attorney should be realistic and ready to respond to your individual circumstances. Fighting just for the sake of fighting may not be in your best legal interests because defendants convicted by a jury usually receive harsher sentences than they can have received in a plea bargain. Aggressiveness just for the sake of being aggressive may make things worse for you.
Take Recommendations From Family and Friends
At some point, you should also consider word of mouth and referrals from family or friends. Someone may have had a positive experience and received a good result when using a particular lawyer. Although success in another case does not guarantee success in yours, knowing what the attorney is really like when someone else is working with them is helpful.
Attorneys will promise they are responsive and will tell you they have the experience you need. However, the experience of dealing with various attorneys may be different. A friend or family member may tell you that their attorney took the time to get to know them and understand their concerns. That personal relationship can often make the difference in a case, and it will undoubtedly give you more peace of mind when you are under the stress of dealing with a high-stakes criminal case.
Pay Close Attention to Reviews From Actual Clients
Finally, you will also want to consider public reviews of attorneys from actual clients. Here, you need to be careful. Attorneys often receive reviews from their colleagues that are primarily favorable, but they do not tell you how an attorney actually does with clients.
You want to hear the actual stories of people who have dealt with the attorney. These are the objective reviews you need to see before making one of the most important decisions of your life.
Websites like Google and Yelp contain more objective reviews that have people’s narrative experiences of their interactions with the lawyer. A pattern of bad reviews or statements that the attorney is not responsible should be an indicator of a larger problem. While not every client ends their case satisfied, lawyers should generally have a strong pattern of good reviews with only one or two outliers.
Don’t Wait to Consult With a Criminal Defense Attorney Near You
When you need criminal defense help, you want to meet with a lawyer in your area right away after an arrest. You want a lawyer with experience in the criminal courts overseeing your case. You also want someone who has defended charges like yours before.
The sooner you call, the sooner your attorney can start building your defense. Consult a criminal defense law firm in Spring Hill, FL, even if the authorities are only investigating you, as a lawyer can help protect your rights and possibly avoid charges against you.