Getting arrested and charged with a criminal offense is not an easy situation. You face fines, incarceration, and court costs. And if you get convicted, you’ll be saddled with a criminal record that could impact your ability to find employment, go to school, or even rent a home.
However, the right criminal defense lawyer can help you make the best of a bad situation. A lawyer can often find evidence that will help you overcome your charges or negotiate a fair plea bargain based on the facts of your case.
How a Free Consultation Works
Attorneys offer free consultations so they can meet you and screen your case. A consultation also allows you to interview the lawyer and ask questions about your situation.
You have many choices when looking for a criminal defense lawyer, so it’s important to use the information you gather during your free consultation to choose one for your case.
Many defendants go with the law firms with the biggest billboards or most famous names. But the right lawyer for your case will fit your unique needs and provide a personalized defense. To identify the lawyer who can give you the services you need, you need to ask them the right questions, so you understand how they will represent you.
When you call a criminal defense law firm, a legal assistant or receptionist will schedule your free consultation and tell you who you will meet and how long your consultation will last. You should arrive with a list of questions so you can use your time efficiently.
Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Attorney
Some questions you should consider asking a lawyer during an initial consultation include the following:
How Much Do You Charge?
Under California’s Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers cannot charge a contingency fee to represent a criminal defendant. Instead, most criminal defense lawyers charge an hourly fee or a fixed fee.
In a fixed fee arrangement, the lawyer quotes a fee and identifies the legal services you will receive. Typically, a fixed fee will cover the lawyer’s services up to an identified point in your case. For example, a lawyer could quote a fixed fee covering all legal services up through trial.
In an hourly arrangement, you will receive a monthly bill listing the time the lawyer worked on your case and the fees you owe for the month. As long as you continue to pay your bills, the lawyer will work on your case.
During your initial consultation, make sure to ask the lawyer which type of fee you will pay. You should also ask what that fee covers. In many cases, you may incur additional expenses for your defense, such as:
- Private investigators
- Expert witnesses
- Laboratory testing of evidence
You should discuss the process for approving these expenses and paying for them.
How Will You Update Me About My Case?
You can only work with your lawyer if you maintain an open line of communication. In a criminal case, you need to communicate with your lawyer to:
- Coordinate your defense
- Stay on top of court hearings
- Remain in the loop about plea negotiations
Your lawyer has an ethical duty to respond to reasonable requests for information. At the same time, criminal defense lawyers have many cases. They can get busy and might not be able to respond to phone messages or emails immediately.
During your free consultation, discuss how often you will receive case updates. Find out whether other people in the firm can provide case updates when your lawyer is unavailable. You can often get updates from paralegals and legal assistants quicker than you might from lawyers.
Do You Have Experience with Similar Cases?
Experience matters in criminal defense cases. You need a lawyer who understands your charges and how the prosecutor will use the evidence to prove them. You also need a lawyer who can find exculpatory and mitigating evidence to defend you.
As such, you should look for a lawyer with experience with your specific charges. A lawyer focusing on DUI cases might have a winning track record, but they might not have the best background to defend you from sex crime charges.
What Defenses Do You Suggest for My Case?
During your consultation, you will discuss your charges with a lawyer and have the chance to explain your story. The lawyer can often provide an overview of the defenses available for your charges based on your side of the story.
The conversation about your possible defenses should involve a back-and-forth discussion. You should look for a lawyer who understands your situation and can tailor a defense against your charges. Ensure your lawyer understands all the relevant facts so neither of you gets blindsided during your case.
What Should I Expect in My Case?
Have a discussion with the lawyer about your options, including the possibility of a plea bargain. During this discussion, you should have two goals: First, you should prepare yourself for what might come from your case. Even the best-case scenario might include a fine, incarceration, or probation.
Second, you should pay attention to the lawyer’s ability to communicate. The lawyer must be able to analyze and explain complicated concepts to prosecutors, judges, and jurors. If you cannot understand the lawyer’s thought process, a juror might have an equally difficult time following it.
Hiring The Right Lawyer for Your Case
Justice demands that you have the best possible representation against the charges filed by the state. As such, you should take your time to pick the right lawyer for your case. If necessary, schedule free consultations with multiple lawyers to get a few different perspectives. Then, choose a lawyer who meets your expectations for your representation. Your charges could irreversibly damage your future, and you deserve the right to defend yourself. To schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense lawyer, contact us at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers by calling (619) 357-4977.