Criminal Attorneys: What to Look for
When it comes to a private criminal defense attorney the attorney you are looking for will probably not be the same person who handled your will or helped you to buy a house. These are all with civil attorneys whereas what do you are looking for is someone who specializes in criminal law. This article will discuss what to look for in criminal attorneys.
It is important to note that private criminal defense lawyers tend to practice either on their own or in small partnerships and in a specific geographical location. However, attorneys who handle civil cases often congregate in large corporate law firms with branch offices in many cities. One of the biggest factors in the different nature of the work of civil and criminal attorneys is that:
Civil attorneys often represent companies who do business all over the country or the world. While criminal defense lawyers represent individuals whose problems are usually quite local.
Companies represented by big civil lawyers have a continual need for legal advice and representation whereas individual criminal defendants have a non-recurring need for legal services.
In most cases a private defense attorney has several years of experience working for the government before going into private practice. This could be as a prosecutor or as a public defender.
Some of the key aspects to look out for when deciding on who to use as your defense attorney include the following:
Local works best – a defendant should try and hire an attorney with experience in the courthouse where the defendant’s case is pending. Even though the same laws may be in effect throughout the state, procedures vary from one courthouse to the next. For example, local defense attorneys in one county may know which prosecutors are more likely to proceed right before trial as compared to those who will negotiate in advance. Additionally, local attorneys know the police officers and how they perform in court before juries. As a result, it is in the defendant’s best interests to look for attorneys who have experience with local procedures and personnel in the courthouse where the case is being heard.
Relevant experience with the crimes charged – it is also important for the defendant to try and find an attorney who has represented defendants charged with the same or very similar offences. One article states that modern criminal law is so complex that many lawyersspecialize in particular types of offences. Therefore, it is not surprising that one attorney may specialize in drunk driving, another in drug offences and yet another in white collar crimes; which is generally nonviolent, money related crimes, such as fraud or embezzlement. Therefore, it is appropriate for a defendant to enquire before the initial consultation about the attorney’s experience. And it is the defendant’s right to not hire a lawyer who refuses to specifically discuss their experience or gives vague, unrevealing answers. For example, if an individual is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, he or she may ask the lawyer they want to retain the following questions:
- have you represented people who have been charged with drunk driving?
- what percentage of your practice involves representing people charged with drunk driving?
- are you certified as a specialist in drunk driving cases (this is dependent on the state)?
- what percentage of your practice involves appearing in the court that my case will be assigned to?
These questions will be able to bridge the gap for the defendant in knowing their defense attorney’s experience in the crime they have been charged with.
Attorney client relationship – it is important to understand that the defendant’s lawyer speaks for the defendant. Therefore, no matter how highly recommended a lawyer may be, it is important that the lawyer be someone with whom the defendant is personally comfortable. The best attorney client relationships are those in which clients are full partners in the decision-making process, as such defendants should try to hire lawyers who see them as partners and not as case files. The defendant should ask themselves questions with regards to whether or not to hire a particular lawyer such as:
- does the attorney seem to be someone I can work with and talk to openly?
- does the attorney explain things in a way that I can understand?
- does the lawyer show personal concern and a genuine desire to want to help?
- do the lawyer’s concerns extend to my overall personal situation, rather than just the crime which I’m charged with?
- does the lawyer appear to be a person who will engender trust in prosecutors, judges and, if necessary, jurors?
These questions are relevant to the makings of a good attorney client partnership. And if the answers to these questions is a yes, it is likely that the defendant has found one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Los Angeles.