If you've been accused of a crime, you have the right to legal counsel. You can ask for a lawyer while being questioned by the police or any time later in the process. I
f you can't afford to hire a lawyer, you can ask the judge for a court-appointed attorney. Otherwise, you'll be expected to pay for the services of a criminal defense lawyer yourself.
Choose the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer
To find the right criminal defense lawyer, look for someone who is familiar with your type of case. A lawyer who handles mostly drunk-driving charges, for example, might not be the best person to handle charges of assault or homicide. Another factor to consider is whether the lawyer practices criminal defense in the particular court where you'll be tried.
If you've been accused of a federal crime, you'll need a lawyer who practices in the federal court system. Any lawyer licensed in Texas, for example, can practice in any county or district court, but must make special application to practice in federal court.
Meet With the Lawyer
When you meet with the lawyer for the first time, answer questions as honestly as possible and listen carefully. If the criminal case is fairly routine, the lawyer may be able to give you an idea of what could happen. Without looking at the police reports and other documents, however, no lawyer should try to give you any guarantees about the outcome of the case.
Pay the Lawyer
Work on your criminal defense will not begin until you agree with the lawyer on payment. Criminal defense lawyers usually charge by the hour and require a down payment called a retainer. If your case is not complicated, the lawyer may agree to a flat fee instead.
Make sure you understand how payment works and what it covers. For example, the contract should describe how much you'll be charged for short phone calls and work by a legal assistant, as well as how much you'll pay for copies, depositions, and other expenses.
You Have the Right to Change Lawyers
If necessary, you have the right to fire a lawyer and hire a new one. It is better to do this sooner rather than later. Changing lawyers can be difficult when a trial date is approaching. Try to anticipate and work out any issues as soon in the process as possible. If the problem can't be solved, expect prompt return of your case files. Depending on your fee agreement, you may be able to recover at least part of your retainer as well.
A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding your defense when accused of a crime is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a criminal defense lawyer.