If you’ve been accused of a crime, it’s important that you take swift action and hire a good criminal defense attorney who can help you obtain a favorable outcome. The question is, what makes a good criminal defense attorney?

The Characteristics of the Best Criminal Defense Attorneys

There are a select few decisions in life that will have a profound and long-lasting impact on the trajectory of your life. Big decisions like where you go to college, the spouse you choose to marry, and the career you choose to pursue are all extremely important. And if you ever find yourself at a crossroads where you’ve been accused of a crime, hiring an attorney is another one.

A bad attorney will leave you vulnerable and exposed to the negative consequences of a guilty conviction (not to mention your portrayal in the local or national media). A good attorney will provide protection. And in most cases, they’ll help you prove your innocence and/or get your charges reduced or dropped.

Be proactive and conscientious when hiring a criminal defense attorney. The faster you act, the better your chances are of obtaining a favorable outcome.

Not sure how to search for attorneys or who to hire? Here are some characteristics to be on the lookout for:

1. Trustworthiness

You’re facing one of the most challenging moments of your life and you need the right people in your corner.

As attorney J. Michael Price II says, “When you have been accused of a crime, it is normal to feel embarrassed, frustrated or confused about the situation you are in. In this difficult and stressful time, it is important that you work with a criminal defense attorney you can trust.” 

Trustworthiness is one of the most valuable characteristics you can find in an attorney,  but it can also be one of the more challenging aspects to uncover. You’ll have to really do your research and trust your gut instincts to know which attorneys are to be trusted with your case.

2. Relevant Experience

Experience is something you absolutely can’t compromise on. This isn’t like choosing a personal trainer or selecting a real estate agent. You don’t want to work with someone just because you like them. There’s a lot on the line here, and the only way to ensure you get a good quality defense is by working with a lawyer who has seen a thing or two.

What qualifies as experience? You want at least five years and preferably a minimum of 10-20 years of experience as a criminal defense attorney. This ensures they’ve handled cases similar to yours and have had to deal with unique circumstances in the past. (Whatever you do, don’t hire an attorney who is fresh off passing the bar exam.)

3. Local Relationships

The best lawyers have more than experience. They also have deep networks in the local community. This is absolutely critical if you want to get a strong defense.

When considering attorneys, pay attention to how they’re viewed in the local courts. Do they know different judges and have a feel for how they evaluate cases? Do they have relationships with district attorneys and prosecutors? You want someone who has rich local court connections that can benefit you.

4. Referrals

Ask around and get referrals. Everyone will have their own recommendation, but look for the overlap. If you get 10 referrals and four of them are for the same criminal defense attorney, this is a pretty good indicator.

When asking for referrals, you should also ask if there are any attorneys that you should not work with. Not everyone will give you names, but some will.

5. Clear Fee Structure

Criminal defense attorneys typically charge an hourly fee structure for time spent on the case. Depending on the attorney, location, and type of case, fees generally range from $150 per hour on the low end to $700 per hour on the upper end.

Attorneys who work on an hourly fee structure may also require an upfront retainer fee. This usually covers a certain amount of the attorney’s time and goes toward your final bill. At the end of your defense, you’ll have to pay the difference between the retainer fee and the total hourly charges.

Before hiring an attorney, make sure they give you a clear fee structure with specific expectations on their rate, retainers, payment schedule, etc.

Do Your Due Diligence

The tricky thing about hiring an attorney is the sheer number of options you have. In your city, there’s no shortage of criminal defense attorneys. However, not all of them are created equal. It’s up to you to filter through the various options in front of you and find the right attorney for your case. Be thorough in your due diligence, but act swiftly. Time is of the essence!