Being arrested or charged with a crime can be a frightening experience, leaving you with worry, doubt, and questions about your next steps. The best advice you can take right now is to find a criminal defense lawyer to help you navigate the challenges of criminal proceedings and ensure your side of the story is heard.

Getting an attorney is vital in ensuring that your criminal case is handled accurately and fairly and that your rights are protected throughout the proceedings. Not all attorneys, however, are created equal. Here are some tips and questions for finding and retaining a criminal defense lawyer.

Start Looking for a Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately

Start searching for a criminal attorney to handle your case as soon as possible. Even if your court date is several months off, starting your search early is a good idea for several reasons. First, the search process could take some time, especially if your case is complex or involves a highly-specialized area of law.

Second, the more time your lawyer has to get to know you and your case, investigate the circumstances surrounding your arrest or charging, and develop an effective strategy, the better able they will be to mount a successful defense. They may also be able to recommend certain mitigating practices that you should begin taking on immediately that could help your defense. For instance, if your arrest involved drugs or alcohol, entering a voluntary support group or even rehabilitative therapy could help the court view your defense more favorably.

While you can certainly select from the attorneys who advertise on television or in the newspaper, or search the web for a lawyer to handle your case, your best bet for finding the right representation is to start with people you know. If you have a family attorney already or have worked with a real estate or another lawyer that you trust, contact them and ask if they work with or could recommend a criminal attorney.

If you are comfortable discussing your situation with family or friends, they may also have recommendations. Finally, you can search for websites for your local or state defense bar – they will have a list of licensed attorneys.

Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Attorney

What is your area of practice?

Just like doctors, lawyers usually have a specialty area of practice. Some may occasionally handle a few criminal cases, while others exclusively practice criminal law. Having an attorney specializing in criminal defense will help ensure that you are being guided by someone who has kept up-to-date on criminal proceedings, changes in the law, and other details that could make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful defense.

Additionally, you should ask if a lawyer regularly practices in a particular jurisdiction. Especially if your case involves federal criminal charges, it is vital that your attorney understands the specific requirements and procedures for the court in which your case will be heard.

What is your level of experience?

More important than asking how many years a lawyer has been in practice or how many cases they have tried is finding out their experience with the specific crime you have been charged with. Many defense attorneys specialize in defending DUI cases or minor drug possession and could be out of their depth defending a more serious felony charge.

An attorney who has argued cases like yours will better handle your defense.

Do you practice in the area?

This may not seem important, but it can be a deciding factor in your case: does the lawyer have experience arguing in the city or county where you have been charged? An attorney who has practiced in that jurisdiction before has existing connections with prosecutors, law enforcement, and investigators who may have involvement with your case. They will better understand the lay of the land, know what a particular judge does or does not allow, and quickly negotiate plea arrangements or other aspects of your defense.

How do you get paid?

Understanding the fee structure for your defense ahead of time is crucial to avoid future disputes with your counsel. Attorneys typically charge either an hourly rate or a flat rate. Hourly rates are more common for serious felonies where the time spent preparing the defense can be long and unpredictable.

For lesser offenses, flat fees are more common; for instance, an attorney might charge $4,000 for handling a misdemeanor drug possession charge. But it is important to ask up front what the flat fee does and does not cover and if the lawyer expects the case to require additional expenses like investigators or expert witnesses.

Will you be handling my case?

This question is less critical if you speak with an individual attorney operating alone. But it is not uncommon in larger practices to be interviewed initially by one lawyer, only to find a different attorney handling your case once the retainer is paid.

To avoid any unpleasant surprises further down the road, ask now if the attorney you are speaking with will be your attorney going forward, and if not, if you can meet the attorney handling your case.

Are you facing a criminal charge? Talk to Bushway Law Firm by calling 478-621-4995.

Gregory Bushway is a former prosecutor who has successfully served as a criminal defense attorney in Macon, Georgia, since 2013. Having worked on many different sides of the law, he knows your opponent and will fight for your rights. Tell us about your case today: 478-621-4995

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