The 7 Most Important Questions to Ask When Choosing a Criminal Defense Attorney


That this is happening to you is unbelievable. Fear fills your chest as the police officer approaches you and says, “I’m arresting you for a criminal offense.”

You may wonder, “What on earth am I going to do?” I’m worried about how this will influence my future. How can I safeguard myself? How do I select the most competent attorney to represent my interests?

Anyone can be vulnerable to this issue, unfortunately. Many factors, including honest mistakes or the overzealous or evil actions of others, can lead to the false conviction of an otherwise innocent person. Even the best of us can flounder in a tense situation and pick the incorrect path.

Whatever the situation, you require top-notch legal counsel.

Precisely Now, Nothing Could Be More Crucial

If you’re facing criminal charges, you need the best criminal defense attorney you can afford, whether in Oklahoma (where I practice law) or elsewhere in the United States.

It’s essential to take your time with this selection, even if you’re “under the gun” to make a hire. After all, you probably wouldn’t want the cheapest doctor to do brain surgery if your life depended on it. It would be best if you didn’t go with the most affordable lawyer you can find. However, that doesn’t imply you must go with the highest bidder.

Then, How Do You Choose a Lawyer for Criminal Defense?

Should you retain the services of the divorce lawyer representing your high school sweetheart or the estate planning attorney representing your brother-in-law? What about picking the first lawyer you see in the yellow pages or the law practice that takes up two pages of the phone book?

I would not recommend any of those options for someone facing criminal charges. The issue is that not everyone who has completed law school and the bar exam is competent and skilled in criminal defense. The courtroom is a new environment for many of them.

Not Every Lawyer Is The Same

Like in medicine, where particular specialists focus on treating specific ailments, many lawyers choose to specialize in one or two areas of law. To be an expert in every area of the law would be an impossible task.

Consider it in this light. Do you seriously believe that a lawyer who spends most of their time drafting and negotiating contracts for businesses would be as effective in court as a veteran criminal defense attorney?

Furthermore, you can anticipate that hiring an expert would be more expensive than hiring someone with simply average expertise or experience.

As a result,

How to Choose the Best Criminal Defense Attorney: 7 Questions to Ask

First, you should inquire how long the attorney has worked in criminal law. A candidate with a decade or more of relevant experience is preferred. You shouldn’t trust a recent law school grad with such a crucial case as your defense.

The second inquiry you should make is about the lawyer’s trial experience. Your attorney must be comfortable and competent with the procedure. Some so-called “criminal lawyers” are just “settling attorneys” who avoid going to trial as much as possible. They often avoid attending practice because they are uncomfortable there, even if doing so isn’t in their client’s best interests. The client’s fear of going to trial might hurt any plea bargaining negotiations with the prosecution. A lawyer who has tried fifty or more cases has a clear negotiation advantage.

Third, find out how many jury trials the lawyer has participated in. Expertise in other areas is also helpful in a jury trial, such as selecting and persuading jurors. You may reasonably predict that more jury trial experience is preferable. Your attorney should have a solid grasp of jury trial strategy if he or she has participated in forty or fifty such cases.

A reputable certification mechanism is preferable to simply asking a prospective lawyer about their experience. If a lawyer meets the requirements of his state and becomes certified as a specialist in a particular area of law, he will be able to advertise himself as such. However, many states (including my own, Oklahoma) do not permit specialties. Thankfully, the National Board of Trial Advocacy offers a nationwide certification. This qualification is challenging, as it calls for extensive trial experience, a written exam, peer assessment, and recertification every five years.

Instead of taking the lawyer’s word for their capability in court, you will have independent verification of that claim if they have earned this certification.

Fifth, inquire about the frequency and method of your attorney’s contact with you. Find out if you feel safe and confident handing up your case during the initial appointment (usually free, but inquire in advance).

Sixth, before signing any paperwork, confirm that the attorney you intend to hire will be the one who handles your case. This is crucial, as some law firms will have you meet with a senior attorney first but subsequently assign your case to a junior associate or even a paralegal. Someone with substantial legal expertise should handle a criminal charge, not a recent law school graduate.

Seven, discover the associated prices. Determine if the attorney bills by the hour or has a set price. For obvious reasons, a flat rate is preferable to you, the client. That way, you won’t have to worry that your lawyer is dragging out the process to charge you more money. Find out what is included in the flat rate, such as whether or not the cost of a trial is included.

Remember that a lawyer’s price that is noticeably cheaper than average may be a warning sign.

The smaller the attorney’s fee, the more likely he will handle a considerable caseload, which is bad news for you. Another drawback to hiring a lawyer who takes a lot of cases is that you might not get as much personal attention from him as you would from one who handles fewer cases but charges more.

I’ve also heard of lawyers who advertise their low rates by saying they’ll represent you in court for just $100. One thing they don’t tell you is that you’ll have to keep paying them for any further work they do for you, such as making phone calls or drafting documents. The sum of these costs may quickly outweigh the price of hiring an outside service.

As I noted before, a lower price could mean the lawyer is the “settling” type who won’t go to trial unless necessary. And because he knows he’ll never have to go to trial, he can do the work for less money.

I hope these inquiries help you identify a criminal defense attorney who will vigorously defend your constitutional liberties and legal interests.

Legal Counsel, Ed GearyZ

Author of the book “The Oklahoma Consumer Guide on What You Should Know When Charged with a Crime” and certified criminal trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.

Read also: Court – What You Should Know Before Hire An Attorney