The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Criminal Law Attorney
In 2020, less than 2% of criminal cases went to trial. This is because a good criminal law attorney understands the risks associated with going to trial and works hard to get their clients a favorable plea deal. Hiring the wrong attorney for your criminal case can increase the risk of going to trial, even more so if you rely on public defenders.
What Is a Criminal Defense Attorney?
A criminal defense attorney works with those accused of committing a criminal act. Once hired, an attorney represents their client in any legal proceedings including, but not limited to, court hearings.
What Kinds of Cases Do Criminal Defense Attorneys Handle?
Any individual facing criminal charges needs a criminal law attorney. Which type of attorney you need depends on your charges. Some of the most common criminal offense case types are:
- Violent Crimes
- Drug Crimes
- Financial Crimes
- Sex Crimes
- Hate Crimes
- Traffic offenses and drunk driving
Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help You Avoid Jail Time?
Facing the criminal justice system is intimidating, especially if you’re facing jail time. One of the main reasons why people turn to a defense attorney is to prevent potential penalties like this. With the right attorney, you could receive a reduced sentence if found guilty, but you could also avoid jail time altogether.
Create Your Defense Strategy
There are several approaches your attorney can take when creating your defense strategy. Some of the most common strategies are listed below.
- Alibi defense
- Violation of rights defense
- Insanity defense
- Innocence defense
- Defense of self, property, or others
It’s important to choose the right strategy when trying to avoid jail time or any other penalties from an alleged criminal offense. To find the right strategy, you have to find an experienced criminal defense attorney that specializes in your type of case.
Felony vs Misdemeanor Crimes
Misdemeanor crimes are less severe than felonies. They are characterized by their potential penalties. Some misdemeanors carry sentences of weeks or a month while others carry sentences up to 1 year in jail. Felony charges are more serious and almost always carry significant potential penalties. The most severe felonies carry sentences of decades.
Types of Felony Crimes
In the state of Virginia, there are 6 classes of felonies. Each class is associated with jail time and a financial penalty. The least severe of which is a class 6 felony, while the most severe is a class 1 felony. A class 6 felony has a maximum sentence of 5 years if the defendant is found guilty. This means that you may face up to 5 years in jail but not more. You also face fines of up to $2,500. A class 1 felony is much more severe in that you could receive up to life in prison and fines up to $100,000 if found guilty. The other classes of felonies fall within this spectrum of jail time and fines.
Why a Criminal Defense Attorney Is Better Than a Court Appointed Attorney
Defendants facing criminal charges automatically receive assistance from public defenders if they cannot afford their criminal defense attorney. This is based on the Sixth Amendment to the United States constitution. Each attorney has their level of skill, expertise, and knowledge. Court appointed attorneys are usually working on multiple cases and may not have the time to “dive deep” into the nuances of your case like a non-court appointed who has full control over their caseload would. This is the main factor that makes hiring a lawyer better than going with a court appointed attorney.
Why Should You Hire a Private Criminal Defense Attorney?
Lighter Caseload: If you choose to hire a criminal law attorney instead of working with public defenders, your case will receive better attention. Public defenders are notorious for having heavy caseloads, meaning they have a lot of defendants to help. Since public defenders don’t get to choose who they work with or how many criminal cases they take on, they are often overworked. This can make it difficult to dedicate time to your case. It may suffer from a weak defense strategy or poor execution of a great defense strategy as a result. Hiring a defense attorney when you’re charged with a crime means you’re working with someone who has the time and resources to build the best case possible. If you’re facing serious potential penalties, this is the best option.
Better Communication: Because of their heavier caseload, public defenders aren’t able to communicate as readily with their clients as criminal defense lawyers do. They need to dedicate the small amount of time they have to researching the case and attending court hearings.
An experienced criminal defense attorney understands how important communication is to their clients. They ensure their clients can get a hold of them when needed. Some even offer their cell phone numbers for asking questions after hours. For people with complex misdemeanor or felony charges, the criminal justice system can be confusing. Being able to communicate with your attorney is essential in understanding what’s going on with your case.
Greater Say: Hiring a criminal law attorney gives you a greater say in who’s defending you. This allows you to learn about their experience, their communication style, and their potential defense strategy for your case. Finding the right fit can be the difference between having a criminal record and being cleared of charges.
What Are the Average Costs for a Criminal Defense Attorney?
While you’re sure to see the benefit of hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney over a public defender, you’re likely wondering what the cost could be. While a person facing criminal charges for a felony can expect to pay between $3,000 to $100,000 or more for legal representation, it depends on several factors. Each case and each attorney are different. There are four main factors worth considering when trying to determine the cost of a criminal defense strategy: the type of fees, the type of case, the attorney’s experience, and whether there’s a trial.
Flat or Hourly Fees: The first detail you need to consider is how the attorney charges their fees. For most criminal offense, the client is charged at a flat rate. While this is a less common practice, it’s usually for minor cases like low severity misdemeanors such as reckless driving or DUIs. Hourly fees are much more common whether you’re facing misdemeanor or felony charges. You pay an hourly rate for the amount of time your attorney spends on your case. This includes research, communication, document drafting, court time, and more.
Type of Case: The seriousness of charges and the complexity of the case may affect your attorney’s fees. Complex cases or severe charges are going to require more time and effort to create an effective defense strategy. Drug crimes are less likely to be as complex as other felony charges such as violent crimes. They are also accompanied by more severe potential penalties which makes your attorney’s job harder.
Experience: Just as you earn a higher salary as you gain experience, so do attorneys. A newer attorney is going to be a much more affordable, though riskier compared to an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you want the best criminal law attorney possible, then you should expect to pay a premium price for that level of expertise.
Trial Cases: An important consideration when estimating attorney’s fees is whether criminal cases will go to trial. Criminal trials are lengthy, stressful for the client, and complex processes. This is why many attorneys attempt to settle criminal cases outside of court. Once cases go to court, they also become much more costly since more time and effort are required.
Find Your Criminal Law Attorney
Finding the right criminal law attorney can help avoid getting or adding to a criminal record. While public defenders may offer a lot of skill and knowledge, their number of criminal cases prevents them from creating a quality defense strategy. If you’ve been charged with a crime and need experienced criminal defense, contact us today for a free consultation.