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How to choose a criminal lawyer

How to choose a criminal lawyer

If found guilty of a criminal offense, you are potentially facing jail time, significant fines and even forfeit of property, including vehicles and other valuable possessions. So choosing an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has court experience, litigation success and expert knowledge of the law is essential to ensuring you receive the best defense and personal outcome.

There are a variety of ways to find a criminal lawyer, ranging from the yellow pages, to online search engines to word of mouth recommendations from friends and colleagues you trust. In almost all cases, you should meet with several lawyers before making a decision. Most lawyers provide a free initial consultation, during which they expect you to ask a lot of questions about their experience and your case.


Here are 11 important questions to ask your potential lawyer:

How many years have you been representing persons accused of a crime?

This provides you with an understanding of the lawyer’s experience.

How many years have you specialized in criminal defense of serious charges?

A lawyer can be in practice for many years and not represent a criminal client. You want someone who has practical experience in criminal defenses, in obtaining reduced charges as well as court room experience.

What is your track record in having criminal charges dropped or reduced?

This is an important question since it would be preferable not to go to court and defend a criminal charge.

What percentage of your cases have gone to trial?

It is also very important that your lawyer has court experience if your case does make it to court.

How many criminal guilty and not guilty verdicts have you had?

A lawyer with an excellent “not guilty” verdict record does not mean they will win your case, but it does bode well if the lawyer has a track record with many positive outcomes.

How many criminal cases have you handled that are like mine?

Every situation is different, so it is possible and even likely the lawyer has not handled a case just like yours, but it is preferable if the lawyer has represented criminal cases that were similar to yours.

What are the key concerns you have with my situation?

It is important to know any concerns your lawyer may have before you hire them, so that you know what factors could affect the verdict and how they will approach your defense.

What do you think the outcome of my case will be?

An experienced criminal attorney will not be able to guarantee a specific outcome but they should have a perspective and experience they can draw from to give you an idea on what to expect.

Who in your office will be handling my case and how will you communicate with me?

You should know who from the lawyer’s team will be working on your case and what experience they have in preparing and defending criminal charges. You must also know who will be the primary point of contact and how often you should expect to interact directly with your lawyer.

What is the potential cost of my defense?

Undertaking a criminal defense in court can be expensive depending on the complexity of the case. The lawyer should provide you with a reasonable estimated cost given your circumstances. You should be leery of a lawyer who quotes you fees that seem too low. This is also why it is important to interview more than one lawyer.

As much as you need the criminal lawyer to be honest with you, you also need to be totally honest with the lawyer. Don’t be afraid to honestly answer questions asked by the attorney regarding the situation and circumstances leading up to and then after the arrest.  What you tell the lawyer is protected under attorney-client privilege, which means it can’t be used against you later in the trial.

Photo Credits: High court by Flickr: Wilson Alfonso

Mark MestelCriminal Defense Attorney

Mark D. Mestel has over 30 years of criminal defense experience. Since 1977, Mr. Mestel has personally handled hundreds of felony cases. Mark Mestel attended four years of college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, graduating ...

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