If you have just been arrested for a crime, you’re probably overwhelmed with questions about what your next steps should be, and what this accusation might mean for your future. The good news is you do not have to fight your charges alone; a criminal defense lawyer can help you gather all the necessary evidence to build a strong case, defend you in court, and possibly get your charges and penalties reduced. Here are a few factors to keep in mind when selecting a criminal defense attorney.
Searching the internet for attorneys in your area will come up with pages upon pages of results, so how do you narrow them down and find the best criminal defense lawyer for your specific case? First of all, you should select an attorney who specializes in criminal law as opposed to civil law. Civil law primarily deals with private disputes between individuals, such as custody battles between divorcing parents, whereas criminal law involves individuals breaking local, state, or federal laws (i.e., disputes between individuals and the government).
Within criminal law, there are a variety of different niches that an attorney can focus on. For instance, a criminal defense lawyer might choose to specialize in only defending people who have been arrested for DUIs. A lawyer who specializes in the type of crime you have been charged with will be the ideal choice for your case. He or she will have the most expertise about this specific type of crime, and will be more knowledgeable about your options than a general criminal defense lawyer would be.
Experience and Reputation
Once you have been able to narrow your search down to a few different criminal defense attorneys, you should find out as much information as possible about their reputation and experience in the field. Look them up on your state bar association’s website to verify their credentials and see how long they have been practicing law.
Make sure to read client reviews and testimonials on outlets like Google and Facebook, rather than just the attorney’s own website. If possible, get a referral for a lawyer from someone you trust – but again, keep specialty in mind (the lawyer who handled your friend’s divorce is not going to be particularly helpful in your criminal case).
Many attorneys will offer a free initial consultation, so take that opportunity to ask a lot of questions and learn as much as you can about your potential lawyer. Inquire about their success rate, if they have handled cases similar to yours in the past, and what the best and worst possible outcomes might be for your particular case.
Ideally, you should select an attorney with experience in the specific court you are going to be tried in, because he or she will have knowledge of how that court operates, and might even be familiar with local prosecutors and judges. Court procedures can vary based on city or state, so an attorney with local experience is key.
Personality might not initially seem like an important factor when choosing an attorney, but remember that you’re going to be working together with your lawyer and communicating with them frequently, probably over the course of several months. The average length of a criminal case, from date of arrest to date of conviction, is six months, with jury cases taking even longer.
At your initial consultation, you should be able to tell if your attorney will be a good fit. The best criminal defense attorneys will have excellent communication skills, return your phone calls and emails promptly, appear professional and confident, be transparent about their fees, and treat you like a partner rather than just another client.