How to Hire the Best Criminal Defense Attorney

by Shaista Shaikh
How to Hire the Best Criminal Defense Attorney

Hiring an excellent criminal defense attorney can instantly provide a sense of calm and optimism when facing criminal charges. But if this is your first time being in a position to need one, it can be a daunting task. 

Questions to Consider When Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney 

With miles of billboards and hours of TV advertisements, it’s clear that there’s no shortage of criminal defense attorneys. In order to hire the best one, you’ll need to consider some vital questions to narrow down your search. Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself to help you find the best criminal defense attorney for your case. 

What does a criminal defense attorney do? 

If this is your first time hiring a criminal defense attorney, it’s critical to know what they actually do and how they can help you. A criminal defense attorney is a lawyer that defends those charged with criminal offenses. After an arrest, a defendant contacts a criminal defense attorney to represent them. The defense lawyer will then review the case, investigate the criminal act, and compose a defense strategy to clear the defendant’s name. 

A skilled criminal lawyer in Rhode Island will be incredibly knowledgeable and experienced in defending a wide range of criminal offenses. They should also be strong negotiators. Sometimes the best path for a defendant is to work towards a plea deal with minimal penalties. Criminal defense attorneys will negotiate with the prosecutor to find the best deal for their client, typically involving the least amount of jail time possible. 

During a case, criminal defense attorneys spend their time examining all the facts, attempting to discover new evidence, interviewing witnesses, and counseling their clients on the best way to move forward. 

When should you hire a criminal defense attorney?

It’s critical to hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Ideally, you want to speak with your criminal defense lawyer before your arraignment hearing. The arraignment hearing is your first appearance in front of a judge in court. Typically, the arraignment hearing is when you hear a list of your criminal charges and enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. It’s best to hire your criminal defense lawyer before this hearing so they can advise you on what to say and what to expect. 

How do I find a criminal defense attorney? 

First-offenders often find the hunt for a criminal defense attorney to be overwhelming. There will be a lot of names out there, but it’s important to find someone you trust. A good rule of thumb is to begin your search by asking for recommendations from friends or family members that have faced criminal troubles in the past. 

It’s also a good idea to check reviews. A good criminal defense lawyer will have a long list of successful results and testimonials from previous clients. Criminal lawyers with poor reviews are typically not trustworthy or simply not dedicated to their clients. 

What questions should I ask a criminal defense lawyer? 

When you narrow down your search, be sure to meet your potential lawyers for an initial consultation. In many cases, these introductory meetings will be free, while others will charge a fee. Be sure to ask about the consultation fees before you meet with the lawyers on your list. Always have a list of questions prepared for this consultation. Here are some important questions to ask potential criminal defense lawyers: 

  • How long have you been practicing law? 
  • Have you ever defended someone with charges like mine? 
  • What’s your experience with criminal law? 
  • Do your cases typically go to trial? 
  • What are your fees?
  • Can you tell me about a possible defense plan for my case? 
  • Are you accessible? 
  • Will you be the lawyer handling my case? 
  • What is your success rate? 
  • What’s my worst-case scenario? What’s my best-case scenario?
  • What can I do to help with my case? 

By asking these questions, you can better understand what your attorney can offer you, how much it will cost, and the best way to move forward. Remember to keep an eye out for red flags. For instance, if your potential lawyer has never handled a case with your criminal charges or if they plan on passing you over to an associate with less experience, they’re probably not the best lawyer for you. 

What should I expect from my criminal defense attorney? 

Besides the general tasks of a criminal defense attorney such as conducting an investigation, interviewing witnesses, and negotiating with prosecutors –a good attorney will go beyond these duties. For instance, if you’re looking for the best criminal defense attorney for you, you want to find one that is accessible and can answer all of your questions. 

It’s also helpful to work with a lawyer that can offer support in other areas. You want your attorney to advise you on what to wear in court, how to respond to a judge, and how to plan for unexpected circumstances. Generally, a criminal defense attorney is the one person you can rely on during a criminal case, which means you should expect a trusting and open relationship. 

How much does a good criminal defense attorney cost? 

Keep in mind that the better an attorney is, the more they will likely cost. Attorneys with extensive experience and a history of success are often expensive. However, it is possible to find an effective and skilled criminal defense lawyer that’s also affordable. At your initial consultation, be sure to ask about their fees and their predictions on the total cost (including court fees). 

If your attorney charges by the hour, ask how the hours are broken down. In addition, ask if they can estimate how many hours they commonly spend on a case like yours. If there’s a flat fee, ask about what you need to pay upfront and when you can expect the next payment. Attorneys must be clear about costs upfront so you can create a budget that covers the entire case. If you can’t afford the cost of the attorney from the beginning until the end of the case, they may not be the right attorney for you.

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