Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer
Criminal defense lawyers practice an intense and often stressful type of law. Their job is to defend people accused of crimes ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. In the event a client is found guilty, the job of a criminal defense attorney is to advocate for a fair sentence appropriate for the crime.
Lawyers are trained professionals with significant applicable education. Lawyers must also pass intense state bar examinations to begin practicing law professionally. When you are arrested and/or charged with a crime, hiring a criminal defense lawyer can make a positive difference in the outcome of your case.
Knowing how to find the best lawyer for your situation is a crucial step to proving your innocence or reducing the potential length of your sentence. There is also an issue of affordability.
How Expensive Are Criminal Defense Lawyers?
Legal fees can be both shocking and beyond the ability of many prospective clients to pay out of pocket. New lawyers having recently passed the bar examination might be less expensive when first starting out. New lawyers also lack the court-time hours and trial history of more expensive, experienced criminal defense lawyers.
A new lawyer can cost approximately $100 per hour plus expenses. A higher profile lawyer with more experience and cases won can charge as much as $400 per hour or more. Lawyers can also charge flat fees for certain legal proceedings and demand retainers to guarantee their availability. Retainers also guarantee a prospective client’s ability to pay.
Retainers for higher profile criminal cases can range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Smaller cases such as DUI charges might require retainers ranging from under $1,000 to several thousand dollars, payable of course up front. DUI offenses are serious and dangerous crimes. The legal tasks involved in a DUI case are less intense and more automatic than casework for a murder charge, however.
How expensive are criminal defense lawyers? The answer can vary case by case. Legal expenses can also vary based on your income level and the type/severity of the crime with which you are charged.
Differences Between Misdemeanors and Felonies
Criminal defense lawyers defend clients against two fundamental categories of punishable crimes. The two categories are misdemeanors and felonies. Both misdemeanors and felonies also have numerous levels of severity and associated penalties.
Misdemeanors are less serious in nature than felonies and can result in one year or less of jail time. Jail time sentenced for misdemeanors is most often served in local or county jails as opposed the harsher state, federal or maximum-security facilities. Misdemeanors frequently result in fines, which are also lower than fines associated with felonies. Examples of misdemeanors include DUI and petty theft. Misdemeanors also include violating a retraining order and possession of certain types and amounts of illegal drugs.
A steadfast definition of what constitutes a felony does not exist consistently across all U.S. states. Every state agrees felonies are more serious crimes punishable by longer jail sentences in higher security prisons. Each state also has its own interpretation and regulations pursuant to what exactly constitutes a felony, however. Regardless of interpretive differences, felonies include crimes such as burglary, grand theft auto, illegal possession of firearms, rape, murder and more.
Types of Cases Covered by Criminal Defense Lawyers
Misdemeanors and felonies are both divided into several classes based on severity. Misdemeanors are designated as Class A, B and C, with Class A being the most severe and carrying six to twelve months of jail time. Felonies are designated as Class A through F, with Class A potentially carrying a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty.
Types of misdemeanor cases covered by criminal defense lawyers can include shoplifting, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, minor drug possession and DUI charges up to certain degrees of severity.
Felony cases covered by criminal defense lawyers can include grand larceny, embezzlement, assault with a deadly weapon, rape, murder and more. DUI offenses can also be elevated from misdemeanor to felony status when a person is charged with a DUI while minor children or firearms are in the vehicle.
Court Appointed Criminal Defense Lawyers
The U.S. constitution’s Sixth Amendment guarantees all citizens the right to legal counsel whether a lawyer can be afforded or not. Qualifying for a court appointed criminal defense lawyer, or public defender, is dependent on proof of inability to pay. It is also dependent on criminal charges resulting in potential incarceration.
A public defender is likely incapable of dedicating the same amount of time and resources to your case as could a private attorney. Being represented by a public defender is significantly better than attempting self-representation, however, and could be the difference between winning and losing your case.
Finding Private Criminal Defense Lawyers
Finding lawyers online is a relatively simple process. There are general search engines such as Google and word-of-mouth review sites such as Yelp. There are also online search directories specifically purposed for helping clients discover defense lawyers. Some valuable online search directories in 2020 include:
Many arrests, especially for non-violent and less serious crimes, do not result in immediate jail time. Most people also do not have a criminal defense lawyer on retainer in the hypothetical event they will eventually commit a crime.
Public defenders are available to help defend and protect you times of legal need and financial hardship. Every person has the right to remain silent and request the presence of a public defender or private attorney before speaking to police or answering questions. Invoking this right can prevent accidental self-incrimination and guarantee your right to a fair and just trial.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You
A criminal defense lawyer has the primary job of casting doubt upon your guilt. The burden of proof in a criminal case lies with the prosecution. When a guilty verdict is declared, your criminal defense lawyer then works to get you the most lenient sentence and smallest fines possible. Additional ways a defense lawyer can help you include:
Handling of witnesses.
Knowledge of state-specific loopholes, nuances and regulations.
Strategizing to win your case.
Guiding and encouraging you through the entire court process.