Hiring a criminal defense attorney can be a stressful process. When you, a loved one, or friend is arrested or charged with a serious felony such as fraud, conspiracy, or even murder, hiring an experienced lawyer quickly is often essential to get the accused released from custody and to prevent the violation of their rights.
Many people, however, get caught up in the emotion of the situation and hire a criminal defense lawyer on impulse, only to later realize that they have wasted precious time and money and need to hire someone else to do the job right. Had a few simple questions been asked before hiring the first attorney, the situation could have been avoided. Some of those questions are:
Who will actually represent me in the court?
Many law firms have “front men” who are the smiling face of their advertising or who meet with clients initially to “close the deal” and get the fee. While these individuals may be experienced lawyers, the case is usually handed off to a very young and inexperienced attorney that the client doesn’t even know about.
When you hire me, you get me. There is no bait and switch. You get my 20+ years of experience in criminal law, not some recent law school graduate who will use your case as a learning experience.
What will the fee cover?
In Phoenix, Arizona, and many other jurisdictions, lawyers charge flat fees for state and federal criminal cases. This means that the fee is a fixed amount, and the client is not charged on an hourly basis.
Many lawyers, however, will charge a very low pre-trial fee just to get the client in the door. What this means as that they will only do a limited amount of work on a case and hope that the client will take a plea deal offer by the prosecutor. The lawyer then becomes focused on getting the client to take a plea instead of aggressively defending the client. When a fee seems low, especially compared to other lawyers, it probably means that a limited amount of work will be done or that the quality of work will be less than what the client hopes for. In short, you get what you pay for.
If the client does not accept a plea agreement, the lawyer will charge additional fees to go to trial. If the client cannot come up with all of the additional money required, the lawyer will either withdraw from the case – leaving the client with a public defender, or the client will feel forced to take a deal that they don’t really want to take. In either instance, the client has wasted a lot of money and has not been getting the representation that thought they were getting.
What can you guarantee me?
There are a number of lawyers who will make promises or guarantees to clients about the outcome of a case. They will fill you full of hot air and prey upon your emotional vulnerability and desire to hear something positive at a time when you are desperate. Aside from being shameful, it is unethical for any criminal defense lawyer to do so.
There are no guarantees that can be made about the outcome of any criminal case. If someone makes one to you, get it in writing and give them a million dollars. I assure you that when you ask for a written guarantee, they will back pedal and run for the hills.
In closing, I’ve been doing this for over 25 years. I’ve won some very big cases as a Phoenix criminal defense attorney – cases where other lawyers had hit a dead end, or were just in over their heads. There’s no substitute for experience. I won’t pawn you off onto a junior lawyer or make you someone else’s guinea pig. My fees aren’t bargain basement – but you always get what you pay for. If you or a friend or family member is facing serious criminal charges, let’s talk about what the options are. No smoke screens, no guarantees, just honest answers and hard work.