Choosing a defense attorney what do I need to know?
Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have been arrested for armed robbery. This is my second offense, and I need a great defense lawyer. I need someone who can help me win my case. I don’t want someone who simply tries to make me take a plea agreement and does not believe in my innocence. Can you tell me specific steps to take when hiring a defense lawyer?”
What is a criminal defense lawyer?
If you have been accused of a crime in the United States you have a right to defend yourself from the charges. This means you not only have the legal right to present evidence to refute testimony and evidence presented by the state against you, but you also have the right to hire a criminal defense attorney.
A criminal defense lawyer is the person who will represent you at all court hearings including the arraignment, pretrial hearings, settlement conferences, trials, and sentence hearings.
Your goal is to find the most competent criminal defense lawyer that you can afford, which means they have extensive knowledge of the law and they are willing and able to ensure that your constitutional rights are protected.
Furthermore, they need to have the skills to understand how to gather evidence (i.e., police reports, eyewitness testimonies and any other information pertinent to the case), utilize the expertise of other legal experts (i.e., paralegals, private investigators, and litigation consultants), and put together a coherent defense for your case.
How do I find the best criminal defense lawyer?
Finding the right defense lawyer who has the time, patience, and energy to understand and give you the best legal representation is not impossible, but it might take some work. Let’s look at the steps you need to take to find the right lawyer.
- Talk to your friends and family members.
One of the best places to start looking for a criminal defense lawyer is by talking to your friends, family, or other lawyers. Not only can they tell you who helped them or someone they know, they can also provide valuable feedback about the working relationship and how successful the attorney was at defending their case.
For example, was the lawyer available to answer questions? Did the lawyer have the time to meet with them? Did the criminal defense attorney understand the intricacies of criminal law? Was their staff friendly and helpful? Did the legal office seem organized?
- Find a criminal defense attorney who specializes in criminal defense legal work.
The second step to find a good criminal defense lawyer is to find a lawyer who specializes in criminal defense work. Just like you would not go to an ear, nose, and throat specialist to diagnose cancer, don’t go to a bankruptcy lawyer and expect great criminal defense help.
Criminal defense laws are complicated, and they can vary by state. Laws can also be different depending on whether you are charged with a state or federal crime. Make sure you find someone who is familiar with the laws of your state.
- Make a list of three or four possible criminal defense lawyers.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the lawyer search if you have too many choices. Choose three or four names from the recommended list and make appointments to visit with them. Keep in mind, shiny and grandiose advertising may not translate into great legal work.
- Make a list of questions for your interview with your criminal defense attorney.
Making a list of questions you would like to ask your prospective criminal defense lawyer is key to not wasting his time or yours. Find out if they offer a free consultation.
Questions that they should be able to answer at the consultation include information about the charges, what the state needs to prove to establish your guilt, the steps you will need to take to defend your case, and any plea bargains that may be offered.
There are certain steps you need to take to ensure that you have the best defense possible.
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