The entire process is already stressful enough and searching for an attorney who best fits your needs may just add to that stress. To possibly ease that worry, we’ve shared seven dos and don’ts which can help you in your search for an experienced criminal defense attorney.
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1. Do Decide If You Need One:
The very first thing you need to do is decide if you need a criminal defense attorney or not. Criminal offenses range the spectrum from minor to serious, therefore the need for an attorney ranges the spectrum as well. For any serious charge, hiring an attorney would be recommended. On the other hand, misdemeanors, such as shoplifting, may not require an attorney. Instead, consulting an attorney before trial may be sufficient. Upon facing a criminal charge, you should seek legal counsel and then decide for yourself if you need a criminal defense attorney or not.
2. Do Your Research
If you do decide you need a criminal defense attorney, then you need to do your research. However, looking for a criminal lawyer for your case can be stressful, especially when you’re most likely already stressed from the entire ordeal. It may seem easier to accept recommendations or find your criminal defense attorney in the yellow pages as fast as possible, so you can get everything over quicker. It may feel like “getting it over with” would be the best solution. But, it’s not. You want someone who is dedicated, experienced and will fight for your case. You don’t want to trust just any attorney with such a big responsibility. Therefore, you need to do your research.
3. Don’t Consider Inexperienced Attorneys
When you look around for a criminal defense attorney, you may find quite a lot that offer lower prices, are “up and coming” or offer success. As you do your research, really look into the experience that the attorneys have. You may find that those who offered the “deals” are actually quite inexperienced. You want to be sure that the person handling your case know what they are doing. So, don’t even consider inexperienced attorneys with less than a decade of experience. You need to find an experienced attorney who specializes in criminal law.
4. Do Look for Trial Attorneys
When researching possible criminal defense attorneys, choose those with a history of going to trial. Trial attorneys, in particular, are persuasive, confident speakers who do their research well and don’t give up easily. They have honed their skills over time, with a lot of experience. Skills such as confidence, eloquence and persuasiveness are what you want in your criminal defense attorney. Going into your case, you want to have as high of a chance for success as possible, so finding a trial lawyer with exemplary skills is a good place to start.
5. Do Avoid Public Defenders, If Possible
Public defenders are mandated by law to take the cases of those who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. While many public defenders may be great at their job, but they are also often overwhelmed with demand. For example, they have to take on many cases at once. This may result in their attention being split in many different directions — not something you want at all. You don’t want you attorney to have their mind and efforts directed elsewhere, not while your future is at stake. To get the best possible experience and give your case the best chance for success, avoid public defenders, if possible.
6. Do Ask about Their Past
Just because an attorney is in criminal defense now doesn’t mean they have always been. If they used to be a prosecutor, then that means they have switched sides for some reason. What could that reason be? Maybe they had an experience which made them rethink which side to represent. It is also possible that their prosecutor career wasn’t progressing as they’d like, so they made the switch hoping something would be different. Either way, the point is that they didn’t start out committed to defending. Instead, they started out aiming to put people away. Is the person you want defending you the one who has a built a career on prosecuting? Instead, choose a criminal defense attorney who has been committed from the start.
7. Don’t Sign Before Meeting Face to Face
Before hiring your criminal defense attorney, you need to meet them face to face. Looking at their yellow pages information, website details or even calling them is not enough. In order to see if they are the right fit for you and your case, you need to meet with them in-person to accurately assess compatibility. The good news is that many attorneys offer free consultations before you need to agree to or sign anything. So, go meet with any potential criminal defense attorneys before making your final decision. See how much experience they have, ask them about their past and ask them how often they’ve gone to trial. Most importantly, make sure you feel comfortable trusting them with this responsibility.
Liz S. Coyle is the Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law. She also serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department. She is responsible for internal and external communications for the firm.