Criminal Defense

How Much Does an Attorney Cost?

December 22, 2022 by Anastasiia Ponomarova in Criminal Defense  
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Every Crime is Defensible

Being arrested for a crime, any crime, is scary. The criminal justice system is complicated, and being accused of a crime is incredibly stressful. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you with every stage of the process, so make sure to retain an attorney as soon as possible so your attorney can start advocating for you right away.

Certainly, it is important not only to hire an attorney, but you should find the best lawyer to assist you. Of course, there are many factors to consider, and the cost is certainly one factor. Ultimately, how much a criminal defense attorney will cost depends on various factors, including the nature of the criminal charges, the complexity of the case, and the resources necessary to help you win your case.

What Should I Look for in a Criminal Attorney?

As you consider which lawyer to hire, look for:

  1. Knowledge;
  2. Experience;
  3. Trust.

According to the American Bar Association, when looking for an attorney, “The lawyer’s area of expertise and prior experience are important.”

In other words, for a criminal case, you want to find a lawyer that practices primarily or exclusively in criminal law. The law is very complex, and you need an attorney specializing in criminal cases. Moreover, experience is invaluable because much criminal law litigation involves negotiating with the prosecutor.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the evidence and discuss the strengths and weaknesses with the prosecutor, and argue that the charges should be dropped if the evidence is particularly weak. Even if the evidence is strong for the prosecutor, your attorney can negotiate a plea bargain or reduce charges. An experienced criminal defense will benefit from past cases and an existing relationship and familiarity with the prosecution that can help you obtain a reasonable resolution to your case without having to go to trial. Similarly, a seasoned criminal defense attorney will know the law and the criminal court judges. This familiarity will not only improve your chances of winning your case but also be more cost-efficient.

A third important factor when looking for an attorney is establishing trust. The best attorney-client relationship is based on mutual trust and respect. In other words, you must be comfortable discussing your case openly and honestly. The success of your case depends on the information your attorney has, and that includes the information that only you can provide.

Also, you must trust your lawyer when you are given legal advice. Ultimately, your attorney is most helpful by explaining the law and reviewing options, but you must trust the information you are given so you can make informed decisions.

Most qualified attorneys will explain the attorney-client privilege to you. The attorney-client privilege is the foundation for every attorney-client relationship and emphasizes the importance of confidentiality. With few exceptions, any private communication between you and your attorney is confidential, and your attorney is largely prohibited from disclosing the protected information you provide. A qualified attorney will review the important privilege to you in order to establish a mutual relationship of trust.

How Much Will it Cost to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?

In general, there is no fixed rate or formula that will outline how much legal representation will cost. Cases can be resolved unexpectedly quickly or last much longer than anticipated. There is no way to ensure how or when a criminal case will be resolved. As mentioned, there are many factors to consider, including:

  • The nature and seriousness of the charges.
  • How much evidence or discovery.
  • Past criminal history (if any).
  • The need for investigation (conducting interviews, forensics, experts).

Also, a trial will cost considerably more than a case that is resolved with an acceptable plea bargain or a successful motion to dismiss. Trials are expensive and take time, so there will be added costs due to trial preparation and the trial itself.

Most lawyers will require a retainer to accept your case. A retainer is money paid in advance that is held in a special bank account, and the lawyer is paid from that account as work is completed. You and your attorney will agree on the amount of a retainer based on the type of case, and of course, you will know the attorney’s hourly rate in advance.
Of course, an attorney can only estimate the cost and time needed to resolve a criminal case.

Again, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be more accurate in assessing your case based on past cases. Moreover, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be more efficient with time which includes many procedural tasks such as filing pre-trial motions, reviewing discovery, researching case law, and negotiating with the prosecutor.

How do I Decide which Criminal Defense Attorney to Hire?

Ultimately, only you can decide which lawyer is best for you. Certainly, you should consult with family, but you are the person being charged, and you will have to pay the consequences.

  • First and foremost, hire the attorney that you are most comfortable with because the attorney-client relationship is vital to a successful outcome.
  • Second, get referrals from family and friends, bar associations, and organizations that rate/review lawyers.
  • Third, interview lawyers. Many lawyers will offer a free initial consultation. Look for good communication, including answers to your questions, and evaluate how comfortable you are talking with the attorney.

When looking for a lawyer, make sure you have a clear idea of what outcome you want. Of course, anyone charged with a crime wants the charges to be dropped or be found “not guilty.” However, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be candid and realistic with the possible outcomes. Unfortunately, depending on the facts and evidence, you may have little chance of an acquittal. In that case, find an attorney that will zealously argue for a lesser charge or a light sentence. Also, an experienced criminal defense attorney will often be able to negotiate a better outcome because of past negotiations with a prosecutor.

Final Thoughts.

Finally, remember that fighting a criminal charge is not only defensive; but offensive as well. In other words, you need an experienced criminal attorney that will not only defend you from the charges but also aggressively challenge any improper acts by law enforcement or the prosecutor. In other words, your attorney will file motions and demand sanctions when your rights have been violated. You have many constitutional rights that cannot be violated, even if you committed a crime. An experienced criminal defense attorney will challenge the prosecutor and inform the court of any violations of your constitutional rights, whether intentional or unintentional and protect you from injustice.

Related Articles:

Criminal Defense Attorney Fees: Why Such Disparities?

The Importance of a Defense Attorney in a Criminal Case

Criminal Defense Attorney or Public Defender?

Why a Defense Attorney Should Be Your First Call After Getting Arrested 

How Do I Choose a Criminal Defense Attorney?

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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.

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How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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