If you have been charged with a domestic violence crime, or are suspected of having committed such a crime, one of the most important things you can do early on is hire a criminal defense attorney who will advocate for you.
There are a lot of attorneys to choose from; you know you need to find a good one, so how do you choose who you want to be your criminal defense attorney? Here are some tips to help you with that decision:
1. Look for a criminal defense attorney. This may seem like a basic point, but it’s worth mentioning. Sure, your sister’s friend’s cousin might be great with handling divorces or writing wills, but when it comes to criminal law, you need an attorney who understands the criminal justice system and who has experience working within it. Even better, choose an attorney who handles cases like yours every day.
2. Get referrals. Even though you probably don’t want to work with your sister’s friend’s cousin (the estate planning family lawyer) on your defense, he/she may be able to recommend one or more criminal defense attorneys. You can also do some research online: read websites and reviews, check with the state bar association and other attorney referral organizations.
3. Public defenders vs. private attorneys. Understand that, although the state is required to provide you with a public defender, you may be better off selecting your own criminal defense attorney. Public defenders, while they may be experienced and competent, are generally balancing large case loads. Because of this, a public defender may not be able to devote the time and attention to your case that you deserve.
4. Talk to attorneys. When you have found one or more attorneys you are considering hiring, meet with them. However, don’t be put off if you cannot get an immediate appointment with an attorney; good defense attorneys have busy calendars. When you do talk to an attorney, is he/she a good communicator? Do you feel like he/she is really listening to you? You should feel comfortable, and you should always be treated professionally in your interactions with your attorney’s office.
5. Ask questions about experience. Has the attorney you are considering hiring handled cases like yours in the past? If so, what was the outcome? How would the attorney proceed with your case, if you were to choose him/her?
6. Ask questions about fees. How does the attorney charge for their services? Do they want a large sum of money up front? Do they bill by the hour? How frequently will you be expected to make payments? One attorney’s fees will differ from another’s based on a wide variety of factors. While you should always expect to pay fees that are reasonable, remember that the cheapest attorney may not equal the best representation.
7. Ask about staff. Who will be working on your case? If your attorney has a staff, find out who you will really be working with for different aspects of your defense.
8. Listen to your gut. At the end of the day, you need to choose an attorney you feel comfortable having represent you. Listen to your instincts, and choose accordingly.
Your criminal defense attorney should defend you vigorously. The possible outcomes will vary, based on the merits of the case against you and all available defenses. Know that, no matter how good any attorney is, no attorney can guarantee you results.
You deserve to have an experienced criminal defense attorney behind you every step of the way. Contact us to learn more about the types of domestic violences cases we see every day, and to schedule a consultation.