When you are arrested and charged with a crime, you are granted several rights by the U.S. Constitution. Perhaps the most important of these rights is the right to representation by an attorney, including having one appointed for you if you can’t afford to pay the fees. As a result, you’ll have your choice from thousands of different lawyers who can represent you. So how do you pick the right one for you? Where do you even begin your search? Let’s take a look at our blog to learn how to choose the right attorney for your case, including some things you should look for.
Public or Private?
As stated previously, if you can’t afford an attorney, you can have one appointed for you. This means the court will choose a public defender and assign your case to them. Your public defender will review your evidence and work to defend you. However, these individuals do not have control over their case load, nor do they get a choice in what cases they are assigned. You may be facing a theft crime charge, but your case may be assigned to an attorney who is perhaps best suited to sex crimes. There’s no way to prevent this. Therefore, you should only consider a public attorney if you are truly in financial dire straits and absolutely cannot afford a private lawyer.
Private representation will give your case the attention and counsel it deserves. Private attorneys have control over their case load, choose which cases they wish to take, and will usually only take your case if they can say with full confidence that they’ll be able to provide you with the best of their abilities. If a reputable lawyer doesn’t know that they can give your case the attention it deserves due to their other stack of cases they’re currently handling, they’ll respectfully decline your case, and many will often refer you to another highly-qualified attorney who they trust will provide you and your case with the same level of attention you would have received had they taken it.
The Right Practice
So you’ve decided you want to go the private representation route. That narrows down your choices a little bit, but not by much. What can you do next? Start by taking a look at local attorneys and narrowing down the ones who focus on practicing criminal defense law. There are all types of law firms and attorneys out there: divorce and family law attorneys, civil law and mass tort attorneys, personal injury attorneys, immigration attorneys, and many others. However, these lawyers do not specialize in criminal defense, and odds are they’re not going to give you the same edge a Kansas City criminal defense lawyer would. An attorney who focuses specifically on criminal defense matters means they’re familiar and experienced with criminal laws, and are well aware of the fine details that could make a huge difference in your case.
There are also an abundance of firms who deal with multiple types of law under the same name. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as some firms have multiple partners, each specializing in a different type of case. However, a single attorney who handles cases from different areas of law can be much more hit-or-miss than one with a specific focus. You know the old saying “A jack of all trades is a master of none?” That does apply to a certain extent in law practice: attorneys with a single focus tend to be far better at that focus than an attorney with multiple practice areas is at any of theirs simply because they can’t truly concentrate on one type of law.
A lot of attorneys like to brag that they’re heavily-involved in their communities, and that’s actually a good thing. Attorneys who take cases only in specific areas are often highly-familiar with the local courthouses, as well as the judges and prosecutors who work there. Some even know the police officers in the area as well, including their arrest histories, reputations, and more. All of this knowledge could help them create an ideal plan for knowing when to submit a plea bargain, how to negotiate, and how to tailor the evidence to benefit your case and provide you with the best possible outcome. National firms may be full of high-profile names, but you lose this insider edge when your lawyer has to fly in from across the country to take your case.
So you’ve narrowed your search to local criminal defense attorneys. Now’s the time to start separating them from each other. Some attorneys specialize in certain types of crimes over others. For example, if you’re facing high-profile rape charges, are you going to go to an attorney who has made their name as a DUI lawyer? That simply wouldn’t make sense. There are so many different aspects to criminal law, and most criminal defense attorneys handle each of them, but you’ll want to consider what cases an attorney likes to take and has the most confidence in.
Feel free to ask an attorney about any experience they’ve had with your charges, as well as any landmark or notable outcomes or verdicts they have obtained in them. Not only is this appropriate, but any attorney will be proud to boast about their successes in a particular area, especially if it helps them secure your case.
Finally, you should feel comfortable with your attorney, and your gut should be telling you they have your best interests at heart. If your attorney seems disinterested in your case but is still willing to take it, they’re probably going to negotiate a plea deal, sign off on the case, and collect the fees you’ve agreed to. When you’re innocent, this is far from the optimal result. Before signing any contracts, ask yourself a few questions:
- Does the attorney explain things in a way you can understand?
- Do they show a genuine personal concern and desire to help?
- Are they concerned with your life as a whole rather than just your charges? (After all, your charges will affect your life.)
- Does this person command respect? If so, they’ll probably also command the same respect from prosecutors, jurors, and judges, meaning they’ll be effective in court.