So, You Need an Attorney…
The question comes up frequently when a defendant or defendant’s loved one is searching for an attorney to defend against the charges.
It’s cheaper to hire an attorney for the preliminary hearing, but there could be a catch…
It’s cheaper to hire an attorney for the preliminary hearing only because that attorney can get off the case after the preliminary hearing and is not responsible for the trial. A bit of background: a felony charge includes a preliminary hearing to see if there’s enough evidence to bind the defendant over for trial.
Because the preliminary hearing takes place in front of a Judge under the low burden of proof called probable cause, in almost 100% of cases the defendant is held to answer for a trial. After this perfunctory preliminary hearing, the attorney who has hired for the preliminary hearing only gets off the case. Therefore, my general advice is to hire an attorney for the entire case, if you can afford it. The reason is that once the case gets past preliminary hearing, your lawyer gets off the case and you are left hanging in the wind without a private attorney.
Given that most people have significant financial constraints in hiring an attorney, I would not object to hiring an attorney for the preliminary hearing under the following scenarios:
- The charge, although a felony, is not super serious or violent. Some examples might include: felony commercial burglary, joyriding, felony vandalism, or felony possession of a gun. More serious felonies would not fall under this category and should counsel for an attorney throughout the proceedings.
- You understand that you are hiring an attorney primarily to settle the case. Here is the main advantage in hiring an attorney though the preliminary hearing only- if he or she settles the case for you at an early stage, you save money by not hiring the attorney throughout the entire proceedings. However, this requires that the defendant accept that a conviction on their record.
- You’re not sure if you’ll work well with the attorney and would like to test him or her out.
The downside with #3 “testing an attorney” and then later hiring the attorney for preliminary hearing only is that if you rehire him or her for the trial after the preliminary hearing, you’re likely to pay more money. The reason is that an attorney can charge you a lower rate at the beginning of the case, not knowing if the case will settle or not. However, once the attorney sees the case is not settling prior to the preliminary hearing, and definitely going to a trial Court, he or she is likely to charge you more because of the substantial work involved with the increased likelihood of a trial.
For instance, an attorney who quotes you at the beginning of the case $5K through the preliminary but $15K for the entire case, is likely to charge you more than $10K for the trial after he’s done the preliminary hearing. The reason is that he or she knows the case is not going to settle at the preliminary hearing and the work load, stress and stakes are increased.
With respect to #2 above, if you have no intention of accepting any conviction, then you should definitely hire an attorney for the entire case. As previously mentioned, the only real reason to hire an attorney for the prelim only is to settle the case. The DA is not going to dismiss the case prior to preliminary hearing.
To summarize, try to hire an entire for the entire case, including the trial.
Definitely do not hire an attorney for only the prelim if the case is serious or if you don’t want a conviction on your record.
Do You Need an Attorney?
Every person deserves fair and honest representation with evidence that is reliable and accurate. Do you need a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney? Call Esfandi Law Group today for a free consultation.
CALL NOW: 310-274-6529
Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.