Criminal Law » What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney

What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney

A court trial really is a trial by fire. Preparing for one requires sorting through thousands of documents and finding dozens of witnesses. The trial itself is arduous, with long cross-examinations and speeches.

In 2017, more than 25,000 people tried to represent themselves in a trial with the Court of Appeals. They filed documents asking for a day in court. Many of them were not granted because the plaintiffs did not understand the law.

Hiring a criminal defense attorney is essential if you want to receive and manage a trial. Unfortunately, not all attorneys come alike. You need to know how to find the right criminal defense attorney, and there are a few factors you can look at.

Here is your quick guide.

Assess Experience

A criminal defense attorney should have experience in many areas of law. They may have specialties, and you should find an attorney with a specialty relating to your case.

But they should still understand all fundamental aspects of the law. This includes securing pre-trial release and plea deal bargaining.

Go on an attorney’s website and see how they define criminal defense. Notice how they discuss plea deals and other aspects of the law. Most attorneys focus on the big cases they won, but those may not be reliable indicators of their experience.

Civil cases are different from criminal ones. Criminal cases begin with prosecutors filing complaints that charge defendants with crimes. These prosecutors are government employees, usually district attorneys that voters elect.

Civil cases begin when a member of the public files a complaint against someone else. The case can be between two individuals, or it can involve a business or government agency. It leads to a monetary settlement, while criminal cases can result in imprisonment.

Some criminal defense attorneys have experience in both. This is especially the case for lawyers based in a local area. This may make the attorney seem more experienced, but in reality, they have less specialized expertise.

Focus on attorneys with specialties in criminal law related to your case. If you must, you can go to an “all-around attorney,” who has civil and criminal experience. But go beyond how many years the law firm has been in business.

Knowing the Area

Your attorney should know the local area. Many lawyers spend their free time networking, associating with other lawyers and court officials. When they’re working, they spend time with the same judges, understanding their personality and style of governance.

This knowledge is crucial. It lets the lawyers cut deals and make scheduling arrangements. Knowing the judges means they can adjust their arguments to appeal to what a judge wants.

It is okay if your attorney practices law over several states. But they should focus on one area in particular. For instance, Johnson Litigation, PLLC practices law across Washington and Idaho, but they focus on the Spokane area.

Do Your Research

The best way to assess a lawyer’s strengths is to see them in court. All trials are open for public viewing, so go to the lawyer’s next case.

You want to look for a few different things. See how they talk to the judge. Do they have a good rapport with each other?

See how they talk to their client. Do they talk to each other, to begin with? When the client tells them something, how does the lawyer respond?

Notice how they address the jury. Do they face them and make eye contact with each member? How does the attorney put things in terms that the jury will understand?

When you’re at home, do a little more work. Check reviews of your attorney on Google+ and Facebook, which don’t let them remove negative reviews.

You should also check the state bar association website. Each website logs the disciplinary records of state attorneys. If the person has a record, you should not hire them.

What to Ask Before Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

Many law firms offer free consultations so you can feel out your attorney. This is also an opportunity for them to decide if your case is worth taking. One thing that can encourage them to take your case is to ask the right questions.

Don’t be imprecise. Questions like, “How experienced are you?”, won’t lead to an answer you can work with. Ask a question like, “How much experience do you have in defending people charged with aggravated assault?”

Assess how they go about investigating a case. Ask how they conduct discovery and interview witnesses. Ask for the names of the libraries they look at and the online resources they use.

If you ask about success rates, the attorney will tell you they are very successful. Ask for a specific example of a case and have the lawyer walk through how they won it. Then go home and research the case to see if the facts back up what they said.

You can also ask about paralegals and associates. See how this attorney divides responsibilities amongst their inferiors. If they are a micromanager, they may not be ideal.

Finding the Right Lawyer

When facing a trial, many people ask, “What should I look for when hiring a criminal defense attorney?” The answer’s a little complicated.

You want an attorney with experience in your area of criminal law. Examine how they view criminal defense itself. They should know the area, including the local judges.

Take time doing research. Observe the attorney in court, then schedule a free consultation. Ask them pointed questions about the cases they’ve won and how they manage trials.

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