If you have been charged with a crime, your choice of an attorney can make all the difference in the world when it comes to the outcome of your case. If you are in a position to hire an attorney, and not relying on a public defender, you have a lot of attorneys from which to choose, and it can seem like a daunting task. Here are just a few helpful hints to guide this important decision.
Starting Your Search
When it comes to finding a lawyer, the internet is most likely the first place to which you will turn. One good place to gather some potential candidates is the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Many states and big cities also have these types of associations. When looking at websites, pay attention to the biographical information. Does it look professional? Are there up-to-date blog posts or articles discussing issues in criminal law?
The Yellow Pages is also a good source, but be wary of advertisements that seem overly ‘slick.’ There is big money to be had in this field of law, and you don’t want to get sucked in by one that is less-than-qualified and making promises he can’t keep.
If you are looking at referral services, find out what qualifications are necessary to get listed. Some have stringent requirements while others merely require good standing with the bar association. While that is certainly important, it doesn’t say too much about competency, experience and knowledge.
This one may sound pretty obvious, but it is easy to fall into a line of thinking most lawyers can handle most types of cases. While this may be true to some degree, depending on your particular need, such as drawing up a standard legal document.You don’t want to think this way when it comes to criminal law. Not only do you want a lawyer who primarily handles these types of cases, you want a lawyer with lots of experience handling your particular type of case. If you were charged with theft, you would want to find an attorney experienced with theft cases, not one who primarily handles drunk-driving charges.
Since many criminal cases end up being resolved through a plea deal with the district attorney, it is good to have a lawyer who has a good working relationship with the prosecutor. Look for someone who handles cases frequently in the jurisdiction, whether state or federal. If state, inquire whether he works frequently in the county where you are facing charges.
Some Red Flags
While the treatment of you by the staff of a lawyer does not fully indicate what your experience would be like with the particular attorney, if you don’t feel you are treated with respect, it might be a good idea to go elsewhere.
A good criminal lawyer should be able to discuss the nature of your charges and possible outcomes in great detail, in language you can understand. He should be patient with you, and answer all of your questions. If you feel an attorney has dropped the ball on this one during a consultation, look elsewhere.
Lastly, do not work with any lawyer who offers any sort of guarantee about the outcome of your case. While his plethora of experience may give him a good idea of how your case may play out, ultimately, no one can ever know until the proceedings have started.
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