Whatever the severity of your criminal charges, it’s beneficial to consider talking to a criminal defense attorney. Many firms offer free consultations, and it’s a good idea to schedule a few, even if you’re unsure about hiring a lawyer. Consultations can help you better understand your charges, your defense options, and conviction possibilities. If your charges are serious, a consultation isn’t likely to be enough, and you should probably hire a criminal defense attorney. Be aware that the quality and professionalism of the individual you hire to defend you in court will be reflected in your sentence.
First, let’s determine the difference between a defense attorney and a public defender. Public defenders are assigned to those who cannot afford a private defender. These individuals have huge workloads and very little time and focus to dedicate to your case, which usually results in a lower success rate. The American Bar Association states that an attorney should avoid accepting over 100 cases, but some public defenders attempt to handle over 200. If you have the financial means, hiring a private attorney gives you a much better chance in court. Criminal defense attorneys represent individuals under criminal conduct charges. They’re also hired by lawsuit defendants. Defense attorneys know the law and often have experience with the court officials handling your case, as well as experience with cases similar to yours. They also sometimes uncover pretrial problems with your case, and can issue official motions to help your case or even have it dismissed.
If you’ve decided to hire a defender, make sure you hire the right one for you. First, determine if you need a state or federal attorney. This depends on what type of crime you’ve been charged with having committed. If you’ve been charged with breaking a law of the state, then you will need a defense lawyer that practices state law. Federal cases involve federal law, such as bankruptcy cases, copyright cases, and patent cases. Being charged with breaking a federal law generally requires the services of a more advanced defense attorney.
Federal cases are often more complicated and time-consuming than state cases, so federal defense lawyers often have better credentials and more experience than state attorneys. Federal prosecutors have more time and better resources at their disposal, so federal prosecution is generally much tougher than state prosecution. You need an experienced, reputable lawyer defending you in a federal case.
Next, consider any areas of concentration or specializations that you’d like your attorney to have. Many law professionals specialize in a particular area of defense in addition to taking on general criminal defense cases. Specialists are certified by an outside agency, but a firm can claim to have a concentration in an area of defense based on experience. You aren’t required to hire a lawyer who concentrates on your charge. In fact, that is sometimes too expensive or impossible, but it’s a very good idea to hire someone with some experience in the type of defense you need. At the least, make sure you find an attorney who is serious about your case and will work hard on your defense.
Now that you’re ready to start your search, what qualities should you look for in your attorney? Signifiers of a good criminal defense attorney are great communication skills, a successful case record, experience in court, and negotiation skills. Set up consultations with multiple firms, and compare these factors, along with rates, educational backgrounds, licenses, and certifications. Hiring a good defender is the first step in putting your criminal charges behind you, so begin contacting lawyers in your area today.