What Types of Crime Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help With?
Criminal defense attorneys can work with any kind of criminal offense, from misdemeanors to murder.
In practice, however, many of the best criminal defense lawyers specialize in a particular area of crime. If you have been charged with DUI or DWI, for example, you will want to find the best DUI attorney near you.
Other criminal attorneys may specialize in defending those accused of violent crimes, sex crimes, or domestic violence, while still others may specialize in fraud, financial crimes, drugs charges, tax offenses, or immigration issues - whatever the charges against you, a recommended criminal attorney can handle it.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
There are two ways of getting a criminal defense attorney. If you can afford it, you can choose and hire your own, in which case you are fully responsible for paying the attorney’s fees. Alternatively, if you cannot afford or do not want to hire your own defense counsel, the court may appoint a criminal defense lawyer for you, if you meet certain conditions, and in this case, the costs will be paid by the government. Normally, if you face a potential jail or prison sentence, you will be eligible for court-appointed representation. If you are not facing incarceration, you may or may not be eligible for free defense counsel, depending on your financial situation and state law. Even if you are not eligible for free counsel, you may be eligible for partially funded representation if you can demonstrate that you cannot afford a private defense attorney.
If you choose to hire your own defense counsel, the cost will depend heavily on the type and complexity of your criminal case. For a misdemeanor, you may be looking at around $5000 in legal fees. For a felony, it could be upwards of $25,000. Criminal defense attorneys are not allowed to operate on a contingency fee basis, and many will require all or a substantial proportion of the fee to be paid upfront.
Tips for Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested, you will need to find a criminal defense attorney quickly, to secure your release and prepare for what lies ahead.
Having said that, don’t panic and pick the first criminal law firm you find in an internet search. Not only are you likely to be spending a great deal of money, but your future hinges on getting effective representation that you can trust. This could be one of the most important decisions of your life, so research is essential.
There are tens of thousands of criminal defense attorneys in the United States.
Start with people you know. If you know an attorney of any kind, they may be able to recommend a criminal defense attorney. If anyone you know has ever had to use one, you could also find a recommendation there.
Beyond personal recommendations, the best way to choose a criminal defense attorney is through our directory of screened and verified criminal defense lawyers across the US. Here you can easily narrow down your search to your state and to criminal defense firms that specialize in the relevant crime.
You can also read reviews right here in the directory, to get a feel for which are the most trusted criminal defense attorneys near you.
FAQ On Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney
1 - Can I represent myself in a criminal case?
You can, but a better question is whether you should.
Around 2% of defendants do choose to represent themselves, and are referred to as pro se defendants, from the Latin for ‘on behalf of themselves’.
In theory, you always have the right to represent yourself. In practice, the more serious the crime you are charged with, the riskier this strategy becomes. Not only do you risk not understanding the law involved, you may also fail to understand the procedural issues. Even if you do have a full grasp of what’s involved, you would probably suffer from a lack of experience, especially at trial, where you most likely do not have the skills to question or cross-examine witnesses or to eloquently provide your own defense.
Ultimately the decision is yours, but you are very strongly advised to use a criminal defense attorney, especially if you are facing potential incarceration.
2 - Can I change my criminal defense attorney if I’m not happy?
If you have hired your own criminal defense lawyer, then yes, you can usually change lawyers if you wish. However, doing so may prove expensive, as your new criminal defense attorney will need to start from scratch.
If your defense counsel is court-appointed, you would need to demonstrate either a serious breakdown in the relationship or incompetence on the part of your lawyer in order for the court to approve your request to change attorneys.
In either case, the court can intervene to prevent a change of attorney in some cases, for example, if they feel the defendant is just playing for time and trying to delay the trial by seeking a new attorney.
3 - Do I need a criminal defense attorney if I’m going to plead guilty?
It’s always advisable to seek representation from an experienced defense attorney, even if you wish to plead guilty. The best criminal defense lawyers may be able to help you in several ways - perhaps by getting the charges against you reduced or by getting your sentence reduced. If the case against you is weak or flawed, your criminal defense attorney may even be able to get the charges dismissed completely. The key is to remember that prosecutors do not have your best interests in mind - that’s not their job. The only professional who will protect your interests first and foremost is your criminal defense attorney - so even if you wish to plead guilty, it is still worth relying on a defense counsel to get you through the process as unscathed as possible.