Six Things to Consider When Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney
Whether you are facing a misdemeanor, felony, or potentially facing life in prison, a criminal conviction can affect almost any aspect of your life. This includes your relationships, career, professional licenses, housing, gun ownership rights, and immigration status.
Choosing a knowledgeable and reputable attorney to represent you may be the most important decision you ever make.
Here are six things to consider when looking for a criminal defense lawyer:
Your lawyer should be licensed in your state and within reasonable travel distance to represent you in court.
Even if a lawyer is licensed in California, if they live and practice in San Francisco, you should not hire them to handle your drug trafficking case in Los Angeles.
In the same vein, you should not hire a lawyer simply because it’s convenient.
If your office is right next door to a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in only drunk driving defenses, there is no benefit to hiring them for your white-collar case. Your attorney’s location is a factor to consider, but certainly not the most important factor.
At the Rodriguez Law Group, we have experience in all Los Angeles criminal courts. We handle all criminal matters, including death penalty cases.
Experience matters. Veteran criminal defense lawyers know when cases are weak, and when they are strong. They know when to fight, and when to pause.
In your consultation, you should ask your potential lawyer how much experience they have:
- As an attorney
- In criminal defense law
- In the court district that your case is being handled
- Handling cases similar to yours
- In your state/city
- At their law firm.
While there are no right answers or minimum requirements, asking your lawyer about their experience will allow them to share their background, knowledge, and results. These are good ice-breaker questions to ask your attorney in your consultation.
You can evaluate not just what they answer, but how they answer.
There are many types of attorneys that have never stepped foot in a courtroom or represented a defendant in a criminal defense case. Be wary of any general practice attorney with no experience who wants you to believe they are capable of taking on your criminal defense case.
Just like you wouldn’t ask your dentist to operate on your ankle, you should not consider a lawyer who is not experienced in criminal law to represent you.
Inexperienced criminal defense attorneys may not have sharpened their courtroom skills or negotiated plea deals. These are not the lawyers you want to hire to come up with your gameplan to save your future. Your lawyer should specialize in criminal defense law and have experience fighting the type of charges you are facing.
It’s standard practice now for consumers to read reviews and testimonials of a business or service before hiring them. An estimated 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses because they offer insight and real-life experiences, good and bad.
Hiring an attorney is an investment in your security and your future, and you should consider if the lawyer you are choosing is the best choice for you. An attorney’s website, Yelp, Google, Birdeye, and Avvo are good places to start.
#5 Cost / Affordability
Many things can factor into what is “fair and reasonable” in evaluating a lawyer’s fees. You likely can find a new, inexperienced lawyer to handle your case for cheaper than a veteran criminal defense lawyer. But that inexperienced attorney may never have worked with the prosecutors and judges assigned to your case, and they may never have filed motions or reached plea agreements on cases similar to yours.
When considering if you can afford an attorney, it’s worth evaluating the potential outcomes of your case, and how they might impact you financially. Although attorneys cannot guarantee results (it is unethical to guarantee an outcome), if your lawyer has handled cases similar to yours previously, they can give you an idea of how your case might be resolved.
#6 Your Impression and Level of Comfortability
You should feel comfortable with your choice of lawyer. If you are not confident in their abilities or do not trust them, you may get to a point where you feel like it’s necessary to start over and hire more competent, more capable, or motivated counsel. This can mean significant expense and delays for your case.
It’s much better to hire an attorney that you respect and believe is qualified for the job. Your attorney should respect and believe you, too. If you meet with a potential attorney and they rattle off legalese or are condescending to you, these are red flags.
Your lawyer should always be willing to explain the legal process and your options to you in a way that you can understand.
Bonus Tips: How to Prepare for your Los Angeles Defense Lawyer Consultation
The most important thing after an arrest or charge is to NOT speak to the police and contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
Once you schedule your consultation, you can prepare a list of questions to ask your attorney when you meet with them. Although it is not required, preparing for your meeting can allow you to make the best use of the time and allow your attorney to hit the ground running if you hire them.
Be very cautious of strong advice about who to hire from your well-meaning circle of friends or relatives, especially if they have not worked with the attorney they are recommending. People who are swayed into hiring someone because they were cheap or nice may lose out on having an aggressive advocate.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, your future is at stake. The attorney you choose to represent you should be made only after considering all the factors listed in this article.
Get A Free Consultation with A Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
Being charged with a crime is a time of tremendous anxiety and uncertainty. At the Rodriguez Law Group, we know how serious criminal charges are. As a former prosecutor, founder Ambrosio Rodriguez can look at cases from all angles and sides to develop strategic defense strategies. We know what to say, what to ask, what to do, and what not to do.
We offer a free, confidential, and complete evaluation of your case. You will have the opportunity to tell us about your case. We will listen to your story, answer your questions, explain how we’ve handled prior cases similar to yours, and discuss your options. Call us at (213) 379-9463 to schedule your consultation.