Many people who go in search of a criminal defense attorney have never been in any type of trouble with the law and don’t know where to begin. There are even some who have past experience with the justice system who don’t actually know how to pick a good criminal defense lawyer. Fortunately, with a few guidelines, it is possible to pick a qualified criminal defense attorney.
Guideline #1: Picking the right type of lawyer
It is easy to assume that any lawyer is qualified to handle any type of case. This is not entirely accurate. Although any licensed attorney is permitted to handle any type of case, it is important to pick an attorney who has experience with your type of case. Think of it this way: Lawyers, much like doctors, tend to specialize. Although you do have general practitioners in both fields, you are often going to get a better result from a specialist. It is equally important to go to the right specialist. You may have the best podiatrist in the world, but is he the doctor you would go to for brain surgery? Similarly, a lawyer who did a wonderful job with your will may have little experience defending a criminal case.
Guideline #2: Finding out about the lawyer’s experience
Aside from finding out that the lawyer you want has experience in criminal defense, you will also want to find out what the depth of that experience is. Anyone can handle a DUI case and then hold herself out as a DUI lawyer. What you will want to do is ask your lawyer how many of your type of case she has handled. It is true that every lawyer has to get a start somewhere, but you do have the right to try to get a lawyer with a good amount of experience.
Guideline #3: Avoiding lawyers who make promises
Perhaps the most important thing to know when hiring an attorney is that you must be wary of promises. It’s one thing for a lawyer to guarantee what his fee will be, it’s another for him to guarantee a result. In any given criminal case, there will be a police officer, a district attorney, a judge, and possibly a jury involved. For an attorney to guarantee any type of result, she will have to be certain that the police officer, district attorney, judge, and/or jury will all be on the same page. As you may have guessed, this is often impossible (Even where it is possible, there is the question of whether what the lawyer is doing is legal if he can successfully guarantee an outcome). An experienced attorney will be able to tell you what the possible outcomes will be, but it is generally impossible for a lawyer to guarantee a result.
Guideline #4: Finding a lawyer who stays on top of the law
The law is constantly changing. Almost daily, courts hand down new decisions that change and/or explain how the law works. To be aware of the current state of the law, an attorney must dedicate a good amount of her time reading and doing research on what the law is. When hiring an attorney, you will want to ask her what she does to stay up to date on developing laws.
Guideline #5: Not letting money make the decision for you
Some defendants try to go with the most expensive lawyer they can afford. Others go with the least expensive lawyer they can find. Hiring a lawyer based upon how high or low his fees are is a mistake. Although money is always a factor, it is far more important to find an attorney who is qualified, experienced, and up to date on the law. You can find lots of horrible lawyers who are expensive and lots of wonderful lawyers who are inexpensive. The key is to judge an attorney by his qualifications and not by his price.