FAQ – Hiring A Criminal Defense Attorney
Should I Say Anything to the Police Before Hiring a Lawyer?
If you are suspected of a crime or have been arrested, one of the most important things to do – say as little as possible. Be respectful to the authorities, but do not put yourself in at risk by providing information that may be used against you. Contact a criminal defense attorney a soon as possible.
Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney Before Seeking Help from a Bail Bondsmen?
After a friend or a loved one has been arrested, often the first thought is to get the person out of custody or jail. Many people turn to a bail-bondsman,. Typically, decisions are made it “in the moment”: fear and panic may play a role is the decision making process – but first taking the time to seek criminal defense help from an experienced attorney instead of posting bond immediately has several advantages:
- Posting a bond may be a waste of money. An attorney can advise you about the severity of the charge(s). For some cases, a person who has been arrested may be released on their own recognizance as soon as they get to court (often the morning after an arrest).
- Bonds are cheaper if an attorney has been hired. Bail bonds must be insured by the bond companies – if a lawyer has been retained it lowers the insurance cost and the bond will be 20% less expensive. This can be a significant amount of money.
- An Attorney may be able to negotiate the amount of bond in court. It is possible and often likely that the bond amount can be reduced by the attorney’s negotiating skill with the DA and Judge.
What Should I Consider When Calling and Comparing Criminal Defense Attorneys?
Although bondsmen are not allowed to recommend a specific criminal defense attorney, they can have business cards present at their offices – some people call these attorneys. Other people will look at the phone book or search for an attorney online. One of the best ways to find an attorney is by personal connection, such a recommendation from a friend or relative. It is always a good idea, as with any service, to examine your options and speak with at least 3 attorneys prior to selecting representation. When peaking with a criminal defense attorney of the phone you can get a feel for their:
- Personality, professionalism, and demeanor
- Their level of experience, as an attorney and with criminal cases
- Responsiveness and timing in regards to your call
- Sincerity (are they just eager to your money?)
- Level of personal interaction (will other attorneys or staff handle your case?
How Do Pricing and Fees Work?
Criminal Defense attorneys typically work in flat-fee arrangements and require an upfront payment (retainer) to begin working on your case. Many attorneys take credit cards and offer payment plans. In comparing prices it is important to take into account that there is a wide range of quotes that you may receive on even a simple matter such as a first offense of driving under the influence (DUI).
Here in Los Angeles for a first time DUI charge, you can find attorneys that will take as little as $750 or other attorneys that would charge as much as $20,000. Either of those might be a reasonable amount, depending on the skill and reputation of the attorney. The vast majority would charge between $3000 and $7000 for a first time DUI with $5000 being an average amount. But take note, it doesn’t mean you are getting more for your money – the amount of work required for your case will depend on many factors – including the facts and substance of your arrest and the evidence against you. For example if injuries occurred, your blood alcohol level and how it was determined, other associated criminal charges during the incident are all issues that require the attention of a criminal defense attorney and working to minimize the punishment against you will require time and effort.
What Should I Consider When Meeting with A Criminal Defense Attorney?
The first time you meet in with an attorney, whether in court, custody, or at their office. Just as in your phone call, is important that you both ask questions. During the meeting assess your comfort level with the attorney. The things you want to look for and questions you should ask:
- Do you and your attorney seem to get along?
- Do you feel comfortable with this person representing you?
- If this person walked into court, do you think people in a jury would respect them?
- Do they speak well?
- Are they well groomed?
- Do they seem to a have a knowledge and understanding of the law?
- Can they easily explain the law as it applies to your case?
- Do you feel you can trust them?
- Do they have the level of experience you need?
- Have they practiced in the court that is handling your case?
- Do they make promises to you that seem unusual? For example, “I know the prosecutor there”. Mentioning relationships such as the prior example may give you more comfort, but generally in Los Angeles courts this will not make a difference in how your case is handled.
Your lawyer should have many questions for you. Their interest in your case is very important to the final outcome. Without proper information, the most beneficial actions and best possible outcome cannot be achieved.
What is Attorney Client Privilege and What Should I Tell My Lawyer?
The moment that you speak to an attorney about your case, wheat or not you hire them or not, the attorney client privilege takes effect. This means anything that you discuss with that attorney is protected and privileged. Not only are they not allowed to relate it anyone else with your permission, even to a family or close friends. Also, the call or conversation can not be listened to or used against you by police, prosecutors or the courts.
Because the majority of cases are resolved by plea bargain and to not go to trial, your attorney should always be advised of accurate information related to you case. By not sharing information with your attorney, you put your attorney in a position where they may lose their bargaining power with the district attorney or the court when it is revealed that your representative doesn’t know the facts. Therefore you put your yourself at a disadvantage in obtaining a good plea bargain.
Can I Change Attorneys?
The courts do not care if you change your attorney. However, since most criminal defense attorneys operate on a flat fee basis, it can be very difficult to get part or all of your fee back; if you fire one attorney and hire another, you may have to pay two fees. However, if there is a risk of severe punishment and you are not happy with the attorney you are with, the money spent on one attorney shouldn’t convince you to stay with them if you think you will be unreasonably punished. Switching criminal defense lawyers may positively change the course and outcome of your case. Also, a new attorney may be able to help you recover or at least use some of your fee in their new representation.
To learn how our approach to criminal defense can benefit you, contact the Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman in Los Angeles to schedule your free consultation.