How to Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer

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Posted on: 06 July 2016 by Katie Lee

No one ever wants to be in a position to have to choose someone to defend them against criminal charges, but if you are, we’re here to help.

Criminal law is a complex beast and your choice will depend on many factors, such as the severity of the charge, the evidence against you, and the severity of the consequences. Take the time now to learn about your options, and what things you will need to consider when deciding who to hire to represent you.

Understand Your Charges

Many people are not very familiar with the criminal justice system outside of what they’ve seen on television and in the movies. If you don’t understand what you’re facing, you need to make sure that someone can explain it to you. You should be able to get a free consultation from any attorney who will consider representing you. They will explain the charges, and the possible consequences. They will likely not be able to give you any specific advice without you signing a contract for representation, but they should be able to give you an idea about whether or not they can take your case, and if they think that they can help you reduce your charges or your sentence. If your crime is minor and you are facing fines or community service, it’s possible that you will be fine just using a public defender. If you’re potentially facing serious consequence like jail time or financial reparations, it’s probably in your best interest to seek out a private attorney.

Do They Have Experience Defending Similar Crimes?

You don’t want a lawyer who deals mostly with drunk driving charges representing you on a fraud charge. When you call to arrange an initial consultation, ask what types of cases they usually handle, before telling them your specific charges. If they don’t often take cases like yours, ask if they can recommend a firm or office that does. You’ll save yourself a great deal of time if you can get a good recommendation from another attorney in the system. For that matter, if you have a civil attorney that represents you for personal or business issues, consider asking them for a recommendation.

Do they Work in the Correct Jurisdiction?

If you happened to get into trouble while on vacation or travelling for business, or just in a nearby city, this is a huge factor. You may have a great attorney that you work with regularly, but if they are unfamiliar with the court system, personnel, or practices in the area where you are charged, they may not be able to help much. You will definitely want to find an attorney local to the place where your charges are. Again, feel free to ask someone you trust if they have a recommendation.

Do They Have a Good Track Record?

Make sure that they are in good standing with the bar and that they haven’t lost any of their professional privileges. Find out if they are a member of any professional organizations that back their members. Ask for references from prior clients that they have represented. A good attorney will have no problem getting reference from their clients. And don’t specifically look at a guilty/not guilty verdict as evidence of good representation. Depending on the types of crime, getting reduced charges or even having some of the charges dropped can be more telling than simply how many people were found not guilty.

Trust Your Gut

Probably the most important part of selecting a Criminal Defense Lawyer is deciding how you feel about the relationship. If the “best” lawyer is condescending and dismissive, you may want to find someone who you feel more comfortable with. Someone who listens to you, and asks for you to be an active partner in the process, is usually a much better choice than the big-name that doesn’t recognize you when you arrive in court.

Katie Lee is a marketing manager at Harper Finch Lawyers - one of Brisbane’s criminal law firms, offering legal services pertaining to criminal and traffic offences.

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