When you’re facing criminal charges, one of the first things you should do is hire a criminal defense attorney to represent you and fight your charges. However, if you’ve never had to hire a lawyer before or are unfamiliar with where to even begin your search for a skilled attorney, you may feel lost and unsure of where to look.
There are several ways to find a qualified criminal defense lawyer to handle your case. Still, finding one is only one part of the puzzle. You must also determine what’s important to you regarding personality and characteristics and trust your instincts to help you pick the best defense lawyer for you.
What Is a Criminal Defense Attorney?
A criminal defense attorney is an attorney that practices criminal law and represents defendants. This is the type of lawyer you need to call when you’re facing criminal charges. These lawyers have a thorough knowledge of the criminal laws in your jurisdiction and the procedures associated with your case.
When the state charges you with a crime, you’ll likely want to argue against these charges in an attempt to reach the most beneficial outcome for you and your future. A criminal defense attorney handles these arguments against your charges. You can rely on your lawyer to create a viable defense to your criminal charges whenever possible and work diligently to represent you and protect your rights.
What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do For Your Case?
When you hire a criminal defense lawyer, you can rely on them to handle every aspect of your criminal case. Having an attorney on your side means not having to spend time or energy worrying about anything case related and knowing your case and future are in the most capable hands.
Among the many tasks your defense attorney will take on, some of the most important include:
- Explaining your charges and what they mean
- Advising you in a way that protects your rights
- Investigating your criminal charges
- Crafting a defense to fight against your charges
- Obtaining pertinent evidence and documentation for your defense
- Communicating and negotiating with the prosecution
- Representing you at all court appearances, including trial
- Providing mental and emotional support
- Appealing your conviction, if necessary
From the moment you hire your defense lawyer, you should count on them to be there for you and do everything in their power to represent your best interests and seek a beneficial result.
Benefits of Hiring a Defense Attorney to Handle Your Criminal Case
While you are fully entitled to represent yourself in your criminal case, there are several benefits to having a defense lawyer on your side.
The many advantages of hiring a criminal defense attorney include:
- You don’t have to worry about doing anything for your case
- You’ll have peace of mind throughout the entire process
- You have the right type of support you need during a challenging time
- You’ll get qualified advice anytime you need it
- You know your case is in the best possible hands
- You don’t have to feel alone throughout the court process
When you have a defense attorney on your side, you can fully focus on yourself, your family, and your future while you let your lawyer do all the heavy lifting on your behalf.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer vs. Having One Appointed by the Court
When considering hiring a criminal defense attorney, it’s especially important to understand why you do not want to have an attorney appointed to you by the court.
Regardless of a criminal defendant’s circumstances, a lawyer can always represent you—the Constitution of the United States grants you this legal right as detailed in your Miranda rights. If you choose, a public defender can handle your case, represent you, and fight your charges. Unfortunately, this is not always the best course of action, and not everyone qualifies for public defender assistance.
Public defenders are government employees representing criminal defendants once the court appoints them to a case. These individuals are often overworked and underpaid, meaning they don’t usually offer the same level of care, attention, and quality as a private criminal defense attorney.
Many defendants choose a public defender over a private attorney for several reasons, most commonly for ease and avoiding costs. While hiring a public defender is often the easier, more cost-efficient choice, you don’t want to put your future into the wrong hands.
You only have one opportunity to pursue a favorable outcome, and there are no do-overs. Therefore, if possible, always choose a private criminal defense lawyer over a public defender for the sake of your future.
How to Find the Right Criminal Defense Attorney?
You may not know where to begin if you’re in the market for a criminal defense lawyer. While you can look for criminal defense lawyers just about anywhere, the following options may produce better options.
Ask for Recommendations
Before looking for lawyers anywhere else, start close to home. Ask those around you, including your family, friends, coworkers, etc., if they recommend good defense lawyers. Nine times out of ten, someone has used an attorney they can recommend, or they know who to ask for one.
Even if someone refers you to a lawyer they know or used in the past, do not hesitate to ask more people for more recommendations. Once you’ve asked everyone, you may have a short list of attorneys to look up.
Research these defense lawyers and determine which ones you’d like to contact to meet with. It’s normal and acceptable to meet with more than one lawyer if you do not find the right one immediately.
Not every lawyer is going to suit every person. However, researching recommended attorneys and meeting with them can often produce good results and may even lead you to your perfect match.
Conduct an Extensive Internet Search
Perhaps you do not have anyone you care to ask for recommendations from, or you do not want to discuss your personal business and wish to go on your search alone. In either event, you can skip straight to conducting your own internet search for the right criminal defense lawyer.
Use your favorite search engine, but be intentional about your search. Keywords are your best friend—they can save you time and help you reach your desired result much quicker. Instead of just searching for something generic like “criminal defense lawyer,” be more specific.
You can use keywords such as “criminal defense attorney in (your city).” If you want to be even more specific, look for an attorney that specifically handles your kind of charge, like “drug possession attorney in (your city)” or “DUI lawyer in (your city).”
The more particular you are about your internet search, the better your results.
Once you’ve found some promising prospects, be sure to visit their law firm websites. Firm sites are great tools for getting to know your potential lawyer, their firm, and what makes them different and unique. You can get plenty of good information from a law firm’s website and get some preliminary details about your prospective defense lawyer to give you a better sense of who they are and what they’re all about.
Research can help you narrow down which lawyer(s) you’d want to meet with and discuss your case. A thorough internet search can produce wonderful results if you invest the time and use your resources to your advantage.
Consult a Local Legal Directory
Several local legal directories exist. Specifically, every state bar association has a website and/or phone number you can call to find what you’re looking for. These directories can provide great direction if you need a bit more hand-holding and guidance in your search.
If you receive some names of criminal defense attorneys, don’t forget to look into them further before setting up your consultations. This can include an internet search to view the lawyer’s profile, website, and possibly even reviews of past clients.
Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney—Trust Your Instincts
Regardless of the method you use to search for and find your criminal defense lawyer, always trust your instincts. While you may have heard to trust your instincts or your gut time and time again, this is a popular piece of advice because it rings true.
You, and only you, will know once you’ve found the right criminal defense attorney. A lawyer that was right for another person may not necessarily be right for you. Everyone is different, and some individuals just “click” better than others.
Because you’ll be working so closely with your attorney, you want to help make sure you pick the right one to get you through a tough time in your life and give you hope for the future.
Important Details to Consider When Looking for a Defense Lawyer
When you have one or two criminal defense attorneys you wish to meet with and explore further, you should consider some critical details and characteristics.
When meeting with a prospective criminal defense lawyer, keep the following in mind to help determine whether they will be the right fit for you.
One of the most important details when considering a defense lawyer is their experience. You want to know they not only have sufficient experience working as a criminal defense lawyer but, more specifically, handling the type of case you need an attorney for.
How long have they been practicing criminal law? What kinds of cases do they handle most? Do they have experience handling cases similar to yours? If so, what are some of the outcomes of these cases?
All of these questions can help you determine whether a lawyer has the right kind of experience for your particular case.
It can be uncomfortable talking about money, but you need to know how much you’re investing into your future. Ask your prospective attorney about their fees. Do they require a retainer, and if so, how much? How much do they charge hourly?
Getting details regarding fees and having these details solidified in a contract signed by both parties is critical. It gives you a good idea of how much you can potentially expect to spend and allows you time to get your finances in order.
No one wants a lawyer that is never accessible and never responds to calls. To get a better idea of how your potential lawyer operates, you can ask about their communication style and policies on responses. For example, if you call your attorney and leave them a message or send them an email, how long will it take to receive a response?
Having a defense lawyer you know is responsive and available to you is invaluable.
Reputation is everything, especially in the legal community.
What kind of reputation does your lawyer have? You may get a sense after asking around or conducting an internet search, but discussing it with your prospective lawyer directly can give you added insight.
A lawyer with a solid reputation is well-respected and well-known. They often have strong connections, including those with prosecutors and judges, which can bode well for you and your case.
Enthusiasm and a good attitude can make working with your defense lawyer that much easier and enjoyable. You should feel as though your attorney loves what they do and helping clients in need. Enthusiasm and attitude translate well in person, so you can expect to get a sense of who your lawyer is during your initial meeting.
Find and Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney Right Away
When you’re charged with a crime, you should aim to hire a criminal defense law firm’s lawyer as quickly as possible. Beginning your search right away can help you find and hire the right attorney much faster.
The sooner you hire your lawyer, the sooner they can begin working on a legal strategy and working toward reaching the best possible outcome for you. Don’t wait your future depends on it.