If you have been charged with a crime, you are entering the complex world of the United States criminal justice system and will more than likely need a lawyer by your side. In this realm, your ability to work with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will be crucial in helping manage your case and obtaining the best possible outcome. While many defendants will be able to acquire a public defender who will represent them free of charge, others may not meet the financial requirements or simply opt to hire a private lawyer. If you fall into the latter category, you may be wondering what characteristics to look for when deciding who to hire.
Similar to having home-field advantage in sports, hiring a criminal defense attorney with experience in the courthouse where your case is pending can end in a much more favorable ruling rather than hiring a lawyer who is not familiar with the procedures of the local courthouse handling your case. For example, the District Attorney in Wake County, NC may have a no-plea-bargaining policy with respect to a particular offense, whereas the D.A. in neighboring Johnston County, NC may not have that same policy. If you had a case pending in the former county, it would be beneficial to hire a seasoned Raleigh criminal defense attorney who may know which prosecutors will negotiate in advance and those that are more likely to plead just before trial. While a strong understanding of local courthouse procedures is important, another advantage to hiring a local attorney is that he or she will typically know the police officers and how they perform before juries.
Civil vs. Criminal Lawyers
The attorney you will want to represent you will usually not be the same person who handled your will or whom helped your uncle receive compensation when he slipped on a wet floor and injured himself at the grocery store. While there is a time and place for civil attorneys, you will want someone who specializes in criminal law. Private criminal defense lawyers generally practice in small partnerships or on their own, and as mentioned above, in a specific geographical area. Conversely, civil attorneys typically practice in large corporate law firms with branch offices located in various cities. Some key differences to keep in mind include:
- Length of client-lawyer relationship – Individual criminal defendants, by and large, have nonrecurring or occasional legal needs. Companies represented by civil attorneys at large firms tend to need legal advice and representation on a continuous basis.
- Location(s) – Criminal defense attorneys tend to represent clients whose issues are mostly very local. Civil lawyers at big firms mainly represent companies with business all over the globe.
If you are looking to obtain the best possible verdict for your criminal case, it should come as no surprise that retaining a lawyer who has represented defendants charged with very similar offenses will be highly advantageous. Due to the complexity of modern criminal law, most attorneys focus on specific types of crimes such as drunk driving, domestic violence, sex crimes, and the like. When meeting with an attorney for the first time, be sure to inquire about his or her experience so that you can make the best hiring decision as possible.
Before You Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
Prior to choosing a lawyer, you should feel comfortable enough to speak with him or her about all aspects of your criminal charge. To avoid unwelcome surprises related to your case, consider asking questions like:
- How many jury trials have you litigated?
- Do you have experience handling cases similar to mine?
- How much of my case will you actually handle?
Additionally, be sure to ask for references and a firm brochure or promotional materials. Always do your research and cross-check these items against other sources. Using your common sense and gut instincts will go a long way – the key is to find an attorney you are comfortable with and who you think will do the best job for you.
If you have any further questions regarding how to find a good criminal defense lawyer, contact us online at i-lawsuit today.