Being charged with the commission of a crime is a frightening experience. It’s never wise to face the perils of the criminal justice system alone. The legal procedures and sentencing guidelines associated with a criminal charge are daunting. Special care should be given to selecting a criminal defence lawyer that is qualified to undermine the pending criminal charges. This will require some research and no small amount of patience.
The search for a qualified criminal defence lawyer should begin the moment that someone learns they are the subject of a criminal investigation. The suspect in a criminal case should not make voluntary statements or allow police investigators to search their home or workplace without a search warrant. Police investigators should also be required to present their credentials before allowing a search to proceed. Briefly study the search warrant to discover the scope of the search that has been authorized and request permission to monitor the search.
A criminal suspect should never voluntarily provide the police with evidence unless the request is accompanied by a court order, including fingerprints and blood samples. The following ten tips should be carefully observed when choosing a criminal defence lawyer:
1. Although many criminal defendants decide to represent their own legal interests in court, self representation is rarely an effective means of disputing a criminal charge or avoiding the consequences of a criminal conviction. Whether the reason for preferring self representation is a desire to avoid the cost of an experienced criminal defence lawyer or the result of a previous negative experience with the criminal justice system, the benefits hardly seem worth the enormous risk involved.
Even a criminal misdemeanor conviction can make it difficult to access housing, employment and education programs. A felony conviction can result in a substantial prison sentence, financial penalties, loss of voting privileges and the inability to own a firearm. Moreover, a previous criminal record can make a defendant eligible for harsher penalties in future criminal cases.
2. It’s essential that a criminal defendant retain the services of a criminal defence lawyer that is suited to the specific criminal case. The nature and severity of the criminal charge are the criteria that should be considered when choosing a defence lawyer.
3. Meet personally with every prospective criminal defence lawyer. This is the only way to learn how an lawyer relates to clients. If the lawyer is a poor listener, evasive or employs scare tactics, these are warning signs that should be carefully weighed before selecting a legal representative. Most every criminal defence lawyer offers a free initial consultation to discuss a pending criminal case.
A criminal defence lawyer cannot properly evaluate a case unless the prospective client shares all the relevant facts. Be honest at the beginning of the lawyer/client relationship so that harmful details aren’t revealed during an official hearing or criminal trial.
4. A reputable criminal defence lawyer will prepare a cost estimate for every prospective client. The lawyer should provide an estimate for negotiating a plea agreement with the prosecution, the cost of a criminal trial and the details of any payment arrangements that may have been agreed upon.
5. It’s important to choose a criminal defence lawyer with specific experience defending clients in similar criminal cases. It would be unwise to select a lawyer that lacks jury trial experience in a case that could result in a substantial prison sentence. Not only will the prosecution do everything possible to obtain a conviction in the case, the prosecuting lawyer will be sure to evaluate the qualifications and experience of the lawyer serving as defence counsel.
6. Take the time to review as many independent lawyer references as possible. Membership in legal organizations, offices held and published articles can also be an indication of a lawyer’s professional standing in the legal community
7. Don’t be afraid to ask a lawyer how many open cases they have or how many days they spend in court each week. It’s reasonable to know if an lawyer will be available to answer questions or whether a paralegal will be completing most of the legal work.
8. Carefully weigh the legal experience of a prospective lawyer, including the number of years they have been practicing law and the number of similar cases they have handled.
9. Don’t be easily swayed by advertising slogans in a telephone book or television commercial. Find an lawyer that is qualified for the case and provides a measure of confidence and comfort.
A criminal defendant should never speak with criminal investigators until a qualified criminal defence lawyer has been consulted. Taking the time to weigh the merits of prospective criminal defence lawyers will greatly increase the odds of choosing just the right legal representative. Choosing the right lawyer is the first step toward the dismissal of all charges, a negotiated plea agreement or being acquitted in a court of law.