Choose a lawyer that practices criminal law.
Whether your case is headed for trial or a plea, you need a lawyer who knows the Criminal Law and knows how to try your case to a jury. Only a lawyer who has defended many criminal cases knows what the strengths and weaknesses of your case are. Only a successful trial lawyer, with a full understanding of the rules of evidence, has the credibility to negotiate the "best" deal for you.
Recognize the value of a successful defense.
While $3,500 to $10,000 may at first seem like a lot, it is a paltry sum if it avoids a criminal conviction or a lengthy incarceration. Being branded with a criminal conviction will severely limit future employment possibilities. Employers don't like workers who have been branded "criminals". Even if you feel secure in your job, recognize that rapid shifts in the economy can lead to "downsizing" in even the best companies or industries.
Be wary of the lawyer that practices in many areas.
Lawyers who do divorces one day, bankruptcies the next and criminal matters on yet a third, may not have the time or experience to make the substantial commitment that specializing requires.
Ask your family lawyer for his or her suggestion.
When asked, most family lawyers will gladly give you their advice as to whom you should retain. They recognize that they stand a better chance of keeping you as a client if they make a referral to a specialist that is an expert in this field.
Avoid lawyers who "puff" about how they'll "guarantee" a result.
If a lawyer promises you a result (especially before he knows you or your case), run - don't walk - in the opposite direction.
Law is complex. Every case is different. There are no easy answers and no guarantees. Any lawyer who promises a particular result in a criminal case is either a liar or a fool.
Be skeptical of any claim that a lawyer is "connected".
Most lawyers in criminal practice were either Colorado prosecutors or public defenders at some point in their careers. Both make good criminal defense lawyers for different reasons.
Beware, however, the practice of some former prosecutors who claim the "inside track" with a DA's office. Such claims are nonsense!
Likewise, although a lawyer should know the local DA's or have contacts with people who do, any claim to special position due to special personal contacts is very likely false.
If these "connected" lawyers claims were true, then the District Attorney's Office would be routinely dismissing cases simply due to a person hiring a politically connected lawyer. This just doesn't happen.
Hire a lawyer who is able to explain your situation.
Your defense lawyer should be able to explain, in simple terms, what your criminal charges involve. That is, what the prosecuting lawyer has t o prove, and how the evidence in your case will be used against you. Your defense lawyer should explain the possible penalties for your charges. Above all, whatever lawyer you choose should be direct and to the point, without misleading you that you will “win your case” just because you hired him or her.
Hire a lawyer who takes the time to explain your rights to you.
Do you understand the lawyer? Lawyers are communication experts. If he or she does not talk to you on a level that you can understand, choose another lawyer. If need be, tell the lawyer you do not understand and make him/her explain it again or on a level you can understand.
Don't just shop for price.
While I recognize that what you can afford is a legitimate consideration, it should not be your only consideration. Frequently a price that is "too good to be true" is just that. In criminal law, perhaps more than any other area of law, the old adage "you get what you paid for," rings true.
In short, fees should not be the only basis for choosing a lawyer. Attitude, experience, compassion and skill are all very important. The lowest priced lawyer is not necessarily the best.
Often criminal defense lawyers will quote you a flat, non-refundable fee for legal work on your case. These flat fees are based upon more than a mere estimate of hours to be spent on a case. You are also paying for experience and skill and because the attorney is setting aside time for your case, possibly losing other business. Criminal defense attorneys in Colorado base their fee on the difficulty of your case, the time that will be involved for the attorney and/or staff, research time for your case, etc. Remember, time spent in court is only a small part of the time involved in being ready for a case. Hours, sometimes days, can be spent in the law library preparing for a five minute appearance before the judge. If trial is a real possibility in your matter, expect a large fee.
Don't think that all lawyers are created equal.
The 90's have seen the practice of law, like medicine in the '60's, becoming increasingly specialized. The lawyer who did your divorce or house closing or grandfather's estate may have been fine for that purpose but you cannot expect him or her to have kept abreast of the drastic changes in criminal law.
Don't be afraid to discuss fees.
Before hiring a lawyer, you have a right to know what it is going to cost. I will tell you at your first meeting exactly what my fee will be. Further, I guarantee that fee, in writing.
Don't hire a lawyer that won't answer your questions or can't explain your options to you in terms you understand.
Remember, you must trust your lawyer. If you do not, don't retain him or her. Seek another opinion. Are you talked down to? Are your questions answered? Do your telephone calls get returned? Does your lawyer spend time with you if you ask to see him or her? Do you know what is going on with your case? Your lawyer is a communication expert and can surely answer any question you have on a moment's notice. Above all, if you get that bad feeling in your gut, see another lawyer before you sign the retainer agreement.
To sum up, seek assistance of counsel in your matter.
Your future, your rights, and very possibly your liberty are at stake. There are criminal defense attorneys who will do their best on your matter, and of course others. Be smart, hire a good lawyer. Get representation.
Remember, the Government hopes that you will not have a lawyer.
Criminal Defense Experience Essential
The decision you make when choosing an attorney is very important. Any attorney, regardless of their normal area of practice, is legally allowed to accept your case and represent you, even when they do not have the criminal defense experience that is critical to the success of your case. It is most important of all that you discuss your attorney’s level of experience in the criminal defense field.
What You Should Know
Criminal defense requires knowledge of Constitutional law principles that are not involved in family law cases, personal injury cases, business and corporate law cases, and so on. A criminal attorney must use these legal principles daily, and must stay abreast of newly-released court decisions that effect your legal rights. Some of these laws are specific even down to the type of case that you have. In other words, a drug possession case may have different Constitutional law issues involved that a sexual assault case. For this reason, a vague understanding of case law that comes from learning the basics in law school is not enough. Your lawyer must be aware of the subtle nuances as they apply to your particular case. Therefore, choosing a lawyer that specializes in criminal matters is essential to ensuring that you are properly represented.