What to Ask Your Criminal Defense Attorney
If you need the services of a criminal defense attorney, you have a lot of questions to ask before determining which attorney you will hire. Criminal defense work is a specialized field of law, and you want to make sure you hire the right person to represent you. Here are a few things you may want to ask during your first meeting with your potential legal defense attorney.
Criminal Defense Experience
You do not want to hire a real estate lawyer to handle your criminal defense unless he or she is experienced in both areas of the law. One of the first things to ask your attorney is about their background in criminal defense. Has the attorney been handling cases of your type recently, so he or she is up-to-date on recent changes in the law? Perhaps your potential attorney has worked as a district attorney or prosecutor in the past; if so, this is great, because it means they have worked on the opposite side of the coin, so to speak, and knows the ways a prosecutor would think about your particular case.
Ask your criminal attorneys about their success rate in handling your specific type of criminal case. Has your attorney tried cases like yours successfully? Or has your attorney typically reached plea agreements in this type of case? You can get an idea of what to expect if you know your potential attorney’s background in handling this type of case to a positive conclusion.
Possible Legal Strategies
You will review the case with your potential attorney in order to determine what legal strategies are likely to be utilized. Does the evidence tend to prove you are guilty, or innocent? Is there enough evidence for the prosecutor to even go to trial, or does the attorney believe your case might be dismissed? Knowing what options are available to you will help you decide if your potential legal counsel is creative and open-minded about your defense.
Penalties if You Are Found Guilty or Plead Guilty
Knowing what the worst case scenario is, unfortunately, is a good question to ask your attorney. You want to know what you are facing if you are found guilty. This is where you can also ask about ways to minimize that penalty. Perhaps you would qualify for pretrial intervention or other similar programs, where certain defendants are offered a way to avoid prosecution by agreeing to a state-run program like probation.
You want to know up front what kind of money you will pay for your legal defense. Your attorney may need money upfront, which may be billed out in hourly increments. Once the initial payment, called a retainer, is exhausted, you will make arrangements to pay any additional money owed.
In many criminal defense cases, attorneys charge a flat fee: once you have paid the fee, you will not owe any additional money. In any case, no matter how you will be charged, you need to be clear on the amount of money that will be owed before you sign any paperwork retaining your attorney.
What Happens Next
One of the most frightening aspects of facing criminal charges is not knowing what will happen next. Ask your attorney to outline what you can expect to happen over the next few weeks or months. Having an idea of what is coming will help you feel more comfortable about your future.
Use this initial interview as an opportunity to determine if you think you and your attorney communicate well. Having good communication with your legal counsel is key to being proactive in your own defense.