Working with a quality attorney can often influence the outcome of a legal dispute. However, the skills and expertise of your attorney are essential if you are a criminal defendant. It can be frightening and overwhelming to be arrested for a crime. You may be facing prison time, a hefty fine, or both, so it is even more critical that you find the right attorney to defend you.
Whether you decide to hire your own lawyer or use a public defender, the initial consultation your opportunity to tell your story and begin building your defense. Your consultation is also an excellent time to ask questions, learn more about the criminal justice process in your state, and get a feel for the attorney before deciding who to hire.
If you can hire a private criminal defense attorney, you will likely want to interview a few attorneys before hiring one. Most criminal defense attorneys offer a free initial consultation to discuss the attorney’s strategies, expertise, and fees, as well as the facts of your case. The initial consultation is often free because it benefits the attorney to evaluate the case before entering an attorney-client relationship.
Make the most of your consultation by sharing all the essential information about your criminal case, so the attorney has a realistic picture of your situation. The consultation is also a time for you to consider whether you are comfortable with the attorney and whether you trust the attorney to represent you in a criminal matter.
That being said, some attorneys do not offer free consultations. If you are interested in working with an attorney who does not offer a free consultation, you should ask about the consultation fee when you make an appointment with the firm. Also, it is important to ask whether the fee will be discounted, waived, or applied to your account as a credit if you decide to retain that attorney.
As with all legal fees, the client needs to understand exactly what the attorney will charge for and how much. Some attorneys or law firms use a flat fee or a one-time payment. Others a retainer fee to secure their professional services then pay the rest in installments.
In most cases, if you are arrested, the police should inform you of your “Miranda rights” at the time of your arrest. Those rights include the right to have an attorney appointed to you if you cannot afford to hire one. Depending on the circumstances, speaking with your public defender may happen a couple of different ways. It might be on the phone or in-person while in police custody or after you have been released in a separate consultation.
The criteria used to determine whether or not you can afford to hire a private attorney varies from state to state. If you think that you cannot afford a criminal defense attorney, then you can request that the police provide you with a public defender to talk with and fill out a financial questionnaire. If you are eligible for a public defender under the state guidelines, then one will be provided to you.
Most often, the initial consultation and all resulting attorney work from a public defender will be provided to you free of charge. However, your county or state may have a sliding fee scale that would require you to pay a percentage of the public defender’s fees, depending on your income. In that case, your initial consultation may be subject to the sliding fee scale as well.
Finding the right criminal defense attorney or law firm to defend you is a very important decision. That decision starts with the initial consultation. So, it is crucial to understand the fees, if any, that are associated with the initial consultation and other fees you may be charged when hiring an attorney.
An arrest and conviction can change everything. Fines or time in jail are the immediate concern, but a conviction will also mean a criminal record that can make it harder to find a job and housing for years to come. If you are arrested or learn you are under investigation, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights, lay out your options, and help you determine the best way to proceed with mounting a defense and limiting potential penalties.