Choosing the right criminal defense attorney is an important step in minimizing the repercussions of a criminal charge.
If you have been arrested and are facing criminal charges, it can be a scary and disorienting experience. However, the next steps that you take could have a significant effect on your future. Whether you are charged with murder, drug crimes or lesser offenses, your first step is always the same-get a good criminal defense attorney. However, since there are many attorneys out there, how do you find one that will give you the quality legal representation you need?
Choosing the best attorney for you
Probably the most important thing to remember is not to hire the first attorney that you come across in person, in an advertisement or on the Internet. Instead, talk to family members and trusted friends for recommendations of attorneys that have successfully represented them in the past. If you are unable to get many names this way, supplement the list with a web search for criminal defense attorneys in your area. Also, state or local bar associations can be good source of contacts.
Once you have a list of names, it is important to narrow it down to those that would be the most able to help with your issue. Some of the criteria you should use are:
- Specialization: Many attorneys are generalists who “dabble” in other areas of the law besides criminal defense. Since criminal defense is a very complex area of the law, it is better to consider attorneys that specialize in and practice criminal defense full time, as they are significantly more knowledgeable in this area. Additionally, look for an attorney with several years of experience handling the types of issues that you are facing. For example, do not hire an attorney specializing in DUI cases to represent you with your fraud charge, as the areas are quite different (even though both are technically “criminal” in nature). Getting specialized help can mean the difference between an “adequate” result and an “outstanding” one.
- Locality: Generally speaking, you should look for an attorney that regularly practices in the geographic area that you were arrested. These attorneys will have working relationships with the local judges and prosecutors who will have a say in what your fate may be.
- Courtroom experience: Many criminal cases are resolved by plea agreements without going to trial. Since the threat of a trial is sometimes the only leverage that the accused has during plea negotiations, having an attorney with proven courtroom experience can mean the difference between a so-so plea agreement (or no agreement at all) and a more favorable one. Obviously, an attorney with strong trial experience is always useful, should your case, for whatever reason, fail to be resolved by a plea bargain and need to proceed to trial.
- Reputation: Lawyers with good reputations among their clients, other attorneys and judges earn that reputation because they have a high degree of ethics and professionalism and regularly achieve favorable results for their clients. Check with established and reputable sources such as Martindale-Hubbell and SuperLawyers for reliable client and peer reviews of the attorneys you are considering.
- Price: If you are charged with a crime, you face the potential loss of your freedoms, rights, employment and reputation. Legal representation from an experienced attorney, like everything else of quality, costs more than representation from less experienced attorneys. However, the extra cost is often worth it, as by hiring a seasoned attorney, you are more likely to achieve a satisfactory result. As a result, it is better to focus on ability and the other factors listed above, rather than price alone when choosing an attorney to represent you during this time when so much is at stake.
Having handled approximately 20,000 criminal matters, at the state and federal levels, attorney Michael J. Diamondstein has developed the experience and reputation among his peers and clients that few other criminal defense attorneys have achieved. If you are charged with a crime, he will advise you of the next steps and work on your behalf to secure the best possible outcome.