Choosing the Right Criminal Defense Attorney
The most important decision a criminal defendant can make is hiring the right criminal defense lawyer. The first thing you must remember when selecting an attorney is that you need a criminal defense practitioner whose primary (if not exclusive) practice is criminal defense. You would not go to a dentist to treat your broken arm. Do not hire a civil attorney to represent you in a criminal matter. Any reputable civil attorney will (or at least should) refer you to a criminal defense attorney.
Below are some key factors to consider in evaluating the caliber and suitability of a criminal defense attorney for your particular case.
Is the Attorney Skilful and Experienced in Criminal Defense?
You must find the most skilful and experienced criminal defense attorney that you can afford. Trial experience is extremely important, whether you are guilty or innocent of the charges. Your attorney must be experienced in all stages of criminal defense, from fully investigating the facts of your case; to preparing motions concerning search and seizure law, motions to dismiss charges, and motions to suppress evidence; to negotiating effective plea bargains; to successfully representing you at trial. Do not hire an attorney who takes whatever deal he or she can get from the prosecutor. Look for an attorney who will vigorously fight for the best disposition in your particular case.
Does the attorney have a good reputation with Judges and Prosecutors?
Keep in mind that a vast majority of criminal cases do not go to trial and are settled through negotiation. Therefore, your attorney must be respected by local judges and prosecutors with whom or she will be negotiating on your behalf.
Does the attorney understand my case?
Ask the attorney to explain in full the substantive and procedural nature of the charges against you, all factual allegations behind those charges, and the consequences of a conviction on any or all of the charges. Also ask the attorney to explain a defense strategy for your particular case and why the attorney believes that this defense strategy will be successful. Your attorney should not prepare a defense solely based on the government's version of the facts of your case. It is therefore crucial that your attorney thoroughly investigates the facts and that his or her understanding of what occurred is not tainted or influenced by what the prosecutors and police claim to have occurred.