Very few people ever think they will be charged with any criminal offense. Consequently, when they are charged, most people don't know where to turn for expert advice. When looking for a criminal defense attorney, it is natural to want to hire an attorney right away – and it is a good idea to hire an attorney sooner rather than later (oftentimes, before you're even charged). However, it is not enough to have representation. You want to make certain you have representation by an attorney who can help you in your situation.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: EXPERIENCE
First and foremost, you want to hire a criminal defense attorney who has experience practicing criminal law. Criminal law has its own separate set of rules of procedure and not every attorney is fluent in them. Additionally, there are consequences to criminal convictions which may extend beyond jail time and a fine. A criminal defense attorney will be able to discuss collateral consequences with you as well as the direct consequences of taking advantage of a plea deal as opposed to going to trial.
Some lawyers who don't routinely practice criminal law think they can just "jump right in" and negotiate a plea bargain. Maybe they can, but maybe it's a lousy "bargain" because the lawyer doesn't know the rules. Once, I represented a man who was stopped while driving for driving below the minimum posted speed limit. The officer then suspected him of and ultimately arrested him for, DWI. Another attorney told him he'd have to plead guilty to DWAI, a lesser charge. But fortunately, the man came to me. I learned that there was no minimum posted speed limit on that part of the road, and thus the police had no reason to stop the car. The charges were dismissed! Another client was stopped for failing to signal while coming out of a parking lot. He was also arrested for DWI. The prosecutor again offered a plea to DWAI. But I realized that (at the time) you didn't have to signal while pulling out of the parking lot, and thus the police stopped my client illegally. The charges were dismissed! That's why you don't want an attorney who only dabbles in criminal law. If you have a heart problem, you go to a cardiologist (a heart specialist), not a podiatrist (a foot specialist). If you have a criminal case, shouldn't you go to an attorney who specializes in criminal law?
THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: AN ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE
When looking for a criminal defense attorney, it is a good idea to pay attention to how your conversation goes. Does the attorney interrupt? Do they talk over you? Do they presume they know what you are going to say? Or does the attorney listen to your situation, and then ask questions that lead to more information? Is the attorney you are interviewing helpful? Reassuring? Knowledgeable of the law? Even though facing criminal charges can be very scary, remember--when you are speaking with attorneys about the facts and circumstances of your case, you are also doing a job interview. You are asking questions and meeting with this attorney with the sole purpose of determining if this is the attorney you are going to hire.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: HONESTY
Be careful of the attorney who promises a not guilty verdict, insists they will obtain a dismissal of the charges or makes other blanket promises about results during your initial interview. Without seeing the prosecutor's file, potentially interviewing witnesses, and making legal arguments regarding suppression, an attorney can't possibly guarantee a particular result – beyond promising to work as hard as they can on the case, leaving no stone unturned. Certainly, every person charged with a crime would like their attorney to get the case dismissed. Unfortunately, there is just no way to predict this level of success from an initial consultation. Find an attorney who is honest with you about this.
ARE YOU CHARGED WITH A CRIME?
If you are charged with a crime, contact the attorneys at Frost & Kavanaugh. Arthur Frost has handled a wide range of criminal cases, from murder to jaywalking, and almost everything in between for more than 22 years. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side provides you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have an experienced professional on your side. Call today at (518) 730-4222 to discuss your case.